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The Power of One

Year: 1992
Production Co: Alcor Films
Director: John G Avildsen
Writer: Robert Mark Kamen/Bryce Courtenay
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Morgan Freeman, Daniel Craig, Armin Mueller-Stahl
After buying the soundtrack years ago and loving it, I finally decided to see the movie.

Apparently the entire last act with Stephen Dorff as the young PK had nothing to do with Bryce Courtenay's book, and you can tell the two halves have come from two different sources. The former is a love letter to the iconic beauty of a childhood home much like we saw in Wah Wah, the latter an American audience-friendly persecution thriller more like we saw in Mississippi Burning.

PK is born in a South Africa hostile to the English, the Afrikaaner people still bitter about their war with England over control of the continent. His widowed mother tries to bring him up right, but she's left struggling to feed them when their rural farm fails and she sends him to boarding school where he's brutalised by the first in a long line of tormentors.

To the filmmaker's credit, they've tried to encapsulate an entire life in each phase of PK's growth, complete with a whole new group of people to meet and lessons to learn.

But it's a miserable tale as he goes through a series of father figures, role models and best friends, all of whom die or leave, from the girl he falls in love with at school to the wise African he befriends in jail (Freeman), the friend of his father's who more or less adopts him (Mueller-Stahl) to the chicken that gave him a mystical courage as a child courtesy of a local medicine man.

As apartheid descends, PK becomes more appalled at the lot of African blacks than he does the treatment of the English by the Afrikaaners, and when he begins an underground school to help them, he truly learns the power of one. It's not as enthralling as you think it'll be, seeming to drop one story to pick the other one up. There are some cut corners and rough edges, but as expected the scenery and music are something else.

And yes, that's a young Daniel Craig in his debut role as the thug who's come back to haunt PK as a young man. And that's also the same John G Avilden who directed the underdog stories that defined two generations, Rocky and The Karate Kid.

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