Nqobile Nunu Khumalo and Bonko Khoza are mind-blowing in the nail-biting crime thriller, ‘Red Ink’

Bonko Khoza as Napoleon Dingiswayo, aka The Butcher, in ‘Red Ink’. Picture: Supplied

Bonko Khoza as Napoleon Dingiswayo, aka The Butcher, in ‘Red Ink’. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 4, 2024


To say that I was blown away by what I’ve seen of “Red Ink”, an eight-part series adapted from Angela Makholwa-Moabelo’s bestselling 2007 debut novel, would be a gross understatement.

This series is first-rate from the perspective of its casting, storytelling and directing to production value.

Of course, it is no surprise that Bomb Productions added its Midas touch to this collaboration with Britespark Films.

Admittedly, the South African TV and film landscape has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. So much so that it can no longer be compared to Hollywood as the content produced is on par with international standards.

Simply put, we are no longer followers but pioneers in our storytelling.

And the recent crop of local crime offerings a la “Killer Front Page”, “Reyka” and “Catch Me A Killer” is a testament to this.

Of the four episodes I have caught of “Red Ink” so far, I would say this is a must-watch for fans of the genre.

Each character is so well-etched that the viewer can’t help but connect with them on some level.

The series centres on Lucy Khambule (Nqobile Nunu Khumalo), a formidable journalist turned PR spin doctor, who is asked to tell the life story of Napoleon Dingiswayo (Bonko Khoza), aka The Butcher.

In the first episode, the viewer witnesses what appears to be the start of a beautiful love story. Napoleon helps Busi, a beautiful young woman, after the contents of her shopping bag spill over.

There’s a spark there and when he asks her out on a date, she agrees. Sadly, it doesn’t end well.

Detective Morapedi (Lorcia Cooper Kumalo), Napoleon Dingiswayo (Bonko Khoza), Lucy Khambule (Nqobile Nunu Khumalo) and Kagiso (Kwenzokuhle ‘Kwenzo’ Ngcobo) in ‘Red Ink’. Picture: Supplied

Fast forward to 13 years later, Napoleon is behind bars. Despite living in the lap of luxury, Lucy is in an unhappy marriage with marketing guru Gary (Yonda Thomas).

While they have a son together, Gary is never home. And Lucy has reached her breaking point with his history of infidelity.

On the career front, Lucy works with her best friend Patricia (Jo-Anne Reyneke) at The Publicist. Although she is an asset to the business, she’s frustrated by not being an equity partner as yet. And it’s something that has caused some serious tension between the friends.

Also, the relationship between Patricia and Lucy isn’t what it used to be.

Deciding to walk away from her unhappy marriage, Lucy finds herself having to start over again. Her vengeful estranged husband takes back her car and she has to look for a place for herself and her son.

Fortunately, her ride of die, Fundi (Tsholofelo Maseko), helps her through her rocky patch.

An aspiring actress, Fundi supplements her income on a private website where she sells pictures of her feet. She’s gorgeous, carefree and confident. And she’s loyal to Lucy, wanting only the best for her.

Meanwhile, KK (Bongile Mantsai) manages to woo Fundi. An influential businessman with questionable connections, he isn’t as sincere with his intentions as he makes it seem.

But she is too smitten to notice.

Yonda Thomas as Gary in ‘Red Ink’. Picture: Supplied

With Lucy trying to figure out her next move, a request for an interview by Kagiso (Kwenzokuhle “Kwenzo” Ngcobo), an old journalist friend, on Napoleon after the body of an old victim is found, sets into motion a chain of events that leads Lucy to return to her roots.

Her interview catches the eye of Napoleon, who requests a meeting with her to discuss the possibility of her writing his autobiography. Hesitant at first, she eventually agrees.

But her research into his background doesn’t correlate with his deadly actions.

Amid all the upsets in her personal life, Lucy is dealt another blow when someone close to her is killed and she becomes the prime suspect.

Then there is Detective Morapedi (Lorcia Cooper Kumalo), a tenacious detective whose path dovetails with both Lucy and Napoleon.

“Red Ink” has a gem of a cast. Nunu Khumalo is truly magnificent in a role that demands her to be strong in the face of so many setbacks.

Her challenges as a mother and a wife are so relatable as is her yearning for a more fulfilling career and realising her worth.

She is a wonderful anchor as a fearless and tenacious protagonist.

Khoza is a revelation in this series. If we thought he was phenomenal in “The Wife”, he surpasses that performance as Napoleon.

He plays his nerdish-looking character with unsettling darkness. He flits so effortlessly from being ruthless to the inmates behind bars to being vulnerable with Lucy.

He exudes a menacing energy. And his evil behaviour is underpinned by a calculated mind, too.

The script is bolstered by red herrings in a cloak-and-dagger narrative.

The deft direction of the series leaves viewers on tenterhooks as they try to figure out the motives of Napoleon and the identity of his powerful puppet master.

∎ “Red Ink” is streaming on Showmax.