Vaya

Vaya is not a fun film. For starters, according to this "based-on-true-events" ensemble drama, only assholes and scumbags roam the streets of South Africa, there to put unsuspecting people in harm's way for their own nefarious purposes.

Weaving three different-yet-interconnecting stories, Vaya (which is Tsotsitaal for "to go") follows several astoundingly naive people as they travel to Johannesburg. A young lady heads there to deliver a little girl to her absentee mother. A young man shows up to do some work for his cousin, while another is dispatched by his mother to pick up his late father. The minute they hop off the train, they're immediately hit -- either figuratively or literally -- with how dangerous, treacherous and downright unforgiving the streets of Johannesburg are.

These country bumpkins get such a vicious yet over-the-top crash course on how dog-eat-dog this place is, where you can't even rely on family members, that I'm surprised there's not a scene of a dog actually eating another dog to really drive the message home. It appears Nigerian actor-director Akin Omotoso wants to do his own African version of Babel, where everyone gets thrust into miserable situations because, hey, that's how life goes sometimes. But the movie lays on the melodrama too thickly. Our poor protagonists are so ignorant to the ways of big-city life that you may wonder if they have learning disabilities, while the antagonists are just cartoonishly villainous. We all know South Africa has some cruel, tough areas, but this will make you never want to go there under any circumstances.

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