Gavin Hood's Tsotsi might surprise you. One of this year's favorites to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, the South African entry is anything but the masterpiece of inspired filmmaking you should expect it to be. It is a crowd-pleaser, sure, winner of the People's Choice Award at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, but other than being a fairly optimistic story of moral turnover that audiences can get behind, the film has very little to propel its worth to the same level as its esteemed appraisal.

Based on the 1980 novel by Athol Fugard, with many liberties taken to modernize what had been relevant literature of Apartheid-era hoplessness, Tsotsi is a bland look at its country's economic rather than racial separations. The universality of the film's themes is globally accessible, but its tired intentions and scarce intensity keep it from being a great film.