|THE DEAD LANDS (HAUTOA) (director: Toa Fraser; screenwriter: Glenn Standring; cinematographer: Leon Narbey; editor: Dan Kircher; music: Don McGlashan; cast: Te Kohe Tuhaka (Wirepa), James Rolleston (Hongi), Lawrence Makoare (The Warrior), Xavier Horan (Rangi), George Henare (Tane), Raukura Turei (Mehe), Rena Owen (Grandmother), Pana Hema-Taylor (Mana), Calvin Tuteao (Ka); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Matthew Metcalfe/Glenn Standring; Magnolia Pictures; 2014-New Zealand/UK-in Maori with English subtitles)|
by Dennis Schwartz
Toa Fraser ("Truth About Demons"/"Perfect
Creature") helmed and the Glenn Standring
written exotic action pic, set in the Dead Lands of
the Maori, in pre-colonial New Zealand, there's a
monster dwelling there, honor codes to uphold and
fierce battle scenes. The time period is before the
15-year-old unskilled warrior Hongi (James
Rolleston) is accused by an evil rival tribe,
led by the cunning Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka),
of the desecration of the tribal burial grounds for
leaving at the sacred site their dead family members
above the ground. The innocent Hongi is spared a death
sentence by the wily Wirepa. When Hongi's family
relaxes their village watch, thinking everything has
been settled, Wirepa leads a surprise attack and wipes
out Hongi's entire tribe except for him. The surviving
Hongi, as a matter of honoring his tribe's traditions,
vows revenge on the fleeing rival tribe. From the
other world, his grandmother (Rena Owen) laughs at the
moronic kid and his delusions.
catch up with the evil tribe Hongi goes through the
forbidden Dead Lands. The infamous Dead Lands, once
belonged to a tribe that has disappeared, is run now
by a vicious cannibal warrior and is
inhabited by a monster. Hongi vows he will get the
monster to help him get revenge.
The fable, filmed in the Maori language, is filled with fierce battle scenes common to the indigenous, westernized storytelling and is nobly acted by a mostly native cast. I found the coming-of-age action flick highly entertaining, even if it shuns history in favor of telling tall tales and keeping its brutality stylish.
REVIEWED ON 11/11/2015 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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