Tsotsi (15) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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This year's Oscar for best foreign-language picture ought to have gone to Michael Haneke's Hidden, and nothing about the actual winner, Tsotsi, should persuade you otherwise. This is a modest, heartfelt story about a young thug (Presley Chweneyagae) whose life of robbery and murder on the mean streets of Johannesburg runs into trouble when he is forced to care for a baby he accidentally steals during a violent car-jacking.

Baffled by the demands of childcare, he forces a young mother (Terry Pheto) at gunpoint to breastfeed the mewling infant, inadvertently stirring memories of his own damaged childhood and eventual flight into street crime.

Writer-director Gavin Hood gets fine performances from his two leads and makes compelling use of the township slums, but the wild coincidence of robbing the same family twice and the improbably swift transformation of Tsotsi from viciousness to virtue place it far below the stuff of prizes.