Devil’s Peak – the first two episodes: a review

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The upcoming series features detective Benny Griesel (played by Hilton Pelser), who is tasked with tracking down a vigilante killer. As he gets closer to his mark, Benny finds himself drawn into a dark and dangerous world where nothing is what it seems.”

Why, oh, why

The number of Deon Meyer novels I have read have all been vastly enjoyable. Page-turners. The tension runs high; the characters are weird and wonderful. Yet, none of the film/TV adaptations I have seen, come close to the quality of the novels. I cannot put my finger on why. I have spoken to clever people, well-read people, film aficionados, and nobody can answer it. Devil’s Peak does not live up to the source material either.

Too obvious

Let’s start with the opening scene. Thobela picks up his son to go on holiday. Instead of making it a very domestic, yet endearing encounter, the sweetness is over the top. As a viewer, I thought, ah, they want me to care about this father/son so they can sucker-punch me. But now you know it is coming. There is no tension (in this scene or throughout the first two episodes).

There are other similar set-ups, like Thobela “finding” the assegai on the wall after a few shots from the hijacking, when the driver is clearly looking at his prisoner for way too long, and not in front of him.

Then there is Bennie chugging down the mouth wash, the bottles in drawers, etc. We got it after the first few sips/scenes. He is an alcoholic. Move along.

Not plausible (mild spoiler alerts)

Thobela slipping into a high-security property along with the garden service? The lawyer stitching him up in a public toilet? With very few questions asked?

Bennie solving a cold case in two seconds flat? Which leads him directly to the current culprit? Or Bennie cracking a suspect in five sentences? After Boef tortured him for hours? Bennie is the bomb, we get it. But, no. The script needed another few drafts.

The visuals

Apart from a few lekker shots of everyday Cape Town – dogs, trash guys, etc – the camerawork is rather standard. There is no visual aesthetic – styling/set dressing/camerawork/lighting/framing – that will make you go, ah, that is a Rodriguez/Tarantino/Anderson/Von Trier product. Or, that movie was filmed by Willie Nel or Reed Morano. Also, take it easy on the drone shots. I counted five in the first 20 minutes. Unless it really adds to the narrative, just leave it.

The words

The dialogue is pedestrian at best.

“Smart. Let me know how it goes.”
“Will do.”


The production values are surprisingly amateurish. The brothel looks staged, and the fight sequences are clumsy. One could play the budget card. But tiny budgets and ridiculous time constraints have delivered hugely successful content at times. The film Victoria was filmed in four hours on a budget of 443,300€ and scored rave reviews.


The biggest problem is Hilton Pelser as Bennie Griesel. He is supposed to carry the show, but he is totally flat. There is little difference in his demeanour whether he is being chased, suffering from PTSD, excited over a new lead or drunk out of his bracket. I get that Bennie is an alcoholic; he is down and out and probably numbed. But you can still play numb with depth, with rage or sorrow simmering under the surface. Just look at what Erica Wessels did in Donkerbos, or Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown.

Plus, in the Meyer novels I have read, isn’t Bennie a grouchy, yet endearing hot mess of a cop? Difficult and flawed, but likeable? Either Pelser plays him as a straightforward arsehole, or Bennie was rewritten as a straightforward arsehole. I cannot tell.

In conclusion

I do not care what happens to Bennie Griesel, whether he makes up with his wife or solves the murder. I am sorry to miss Tarryn Wyngaard, Albert Pretorius and Sisanda Henna knocking it out of the park in later episodes, because I will not be tuning in for the third instalment. There are too many incredible productions vying for my attention.

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