The Power of One (1992)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Message Movie  |   Release Date - Mar 27, 1992 (USA)  |   Run Time - 130 min.  |   Countries - Australia , Germany , France , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The late '80s and early '90s saw numerous stories of Afrikaner atrocities hit the big screen -- so many, in fact, that it became a challenge to differentiate between them. With John G. Avildsen at the helm, The Power of One should be easy to remember as "the boxing one." Truth be told, though, pugilism is only a small part of this sprawling story of early apartheid, as the director of such crowd pleasers as Rocky and The Karate Kid evolves into an artist equal to the epic sweep of tragedy and history. Avildsen and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, his Karate Kid collaborator, send the viewer on the same journey of lost innocence the protagonist endures, following the young P.K. (Guy Witcher) from the point of his earliest childhood traumas, and making him easily relatable. Set against the African plains (lushly shot by Dean Semler), this section establishes the tensions not only between Afrikaners and blacks, but Afrikaners and the English, which contextualize many of the events that follow. The young Witcher's narration hits a disarmingly matter-of-fact tone. The actors chosen to play P.K. at his next two ages can't quite match the child actor's presence, though Stephen Dorff, often cast as a rascal, is plenty charming here. With the help of some choice supporting performances (Daniel Craig as a vicious Afrikaner officer, Morgan Freeman as a saintly prisoner), The Power of One tells a rousing story of struggles against injustice -- compromised only slightly by the fact that it's not based on actual events. It's got some decent boxing scenes as well, but they're secondary to the larger themes Avildsen brings to the screen in his most mature effort. Too bad he couldn't build on it -- he relapsed to a small-time bull-riding movie, 8 Seconds, as his next project.