Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata
Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Opening Day: 18 November 2016 (SHOWING EXCLUSIVELY AT THE PROJECTOR)
Synopsis: Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options: go out in a blaze of glory or overcome their differences and survive as a family.
We do not blame you if “The Lord of the Rings” is the only thing that comes to mind when we mention “New Zealand film production”. The film franchise based on J R R Tolkien’s fantasy novel and directed by New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson did contribute lots of money to the economy of the island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
But not everything about New Zealandis about hobbits, elves, wizards and orcs. Ladies and gentlemen, meet 41 year old Taika Waititi - film director, writer, actor, painter and comedian.
Signs that the Wellingtonborn is a talent to look out for? He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night. His horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows (2014) received critical acclaim. And after 2010’s Boy, his latest work starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison are the top grossing New Zealand films.
Based on Billy Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress, the hilarious but affecting story sees a man and a boy becoming targets of a manhunt after feeling into the New Zealand bushes (this refers to areas of native trees rather than exotic forests).
After winning the Best Supporting Actor at the New Zealand Film Award in 2013 for Shopping (nope, we haven’t seen it either), 14 year old Dennison takes on the role of Ricky, a juvenile delinquent abandoned by his mother and subsequently taken by child welfare services to live in a remote farm. Neill (we’ll always remember the actor for his iconic performance as Dr Alan Grant in 1993’s Jurassic Park) is the cranky foster father who finds himself in the wilderness running away from the authorities – no thanks to Ricky’s feigned suicide following his foster mother’s death.
The two men, one old and one young, bring to screen a charming chemistry that is sorely lacking in the cinemas these days. Backed up by a story that is almost too absurd to be true, you will journey with the pair as they go on an adventure. This is no doubt a coming of age tale, but the genuine emotions make it stand out from many forgettable movies starring bankable (not to forget, good looking) stars.
The film also features a lovely soundtrack which includes Leonard Cohen’s “Song of the French Partisan”, Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” and DD Smash’s “Magic (What She Do)”. The score is composed by New Zealand based band Moniker, and is a fascinating mix of electronic influences that will have you smiling for the entire film’s 101 minute runtime. The awe inspiring views of New Zealandbushes are a bonus to this highly recommended film.
Above all, you will be moved by the film, and the poignant life lessons it carries. After going on the adventure with the two protagonists, you will realise there is always something to learn from people around you, regardless of age. When the end credits roll, both characters would have learnt something from each other, and you would have gotten some valuable takeaways yourself as well.
(Both funny and affecting, this New Zealand film is a gem that oozes with charm)
Review by John Li