The Dead Lands

The Dead Lands

(2014)

Where the warrior spirit was born.

Māori history is brought alive in this period action-adventure based on the traditional fighting art of Mau rākau. This Māori-language film (with subtitles) is New Zealand's entry in the Oscar foreign-language category. After his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery, the chieftain's teenage son Hongi (James Rolleston, Boy) must avenge his father's death in order to bring honor to the souls of his loved ones.... More

Outnumbered by the band of villains, Hongi's only hope is to pass through the forbidden Dead Lands and forge an alliance with the mysterious "Warrior" (Lawrence Makoare, Die Another Day). From the director of No. 2 and Dean Spanley, co-stars  Rena Owen (Once Were Warriors) and former NRL player Wairangi Koopu.Hide

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Flicks Review

Conventional wisdom would have you think a pre-colonial Māori action movie in Te Reo would be a suicidal commercial proposition. Then again, conventional wisdom is responsible for so much dreck littering bargain bins and has never produced the patu-wielding, arse-kicking, uniquely Aotearoan action of The Dead Lands. For many Kiwis, the period setting and Māori language elements should prove a unique enough reason to stump up for a movie ticket. For others, The Dead Lands offers proof that a well-crafted, fight-filled revenge story is the type of pic least reliant on the English language to impress, which this does in spades.... More

The film follows Hongi (James Rolleston) as he tracks and dispatches the men that slaughtered his tribe, led by the suitably duplicitous, slimy and egotistical villain Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka). This simple premise takes us across our local landscape in a way that reclaims it from glossy TV commercials and fantasy films, defying the title to bring the past to the big screen as a living, breathing entity and then, frequently, dousing it with blood after many a chilling stand-off.

Toa Fraser’s prior films (No. 2, Dean Spanley, Giselle) may not have pointed to him being director of choice for this project, but he brings plenty to The Dead Lands that makes it hard to think of the film ending up as impressive in anyone else’s hands. For every decision Fraser makes to ensure this works as an action pic (itself no mean feat, especially in a country that has so little experience making ‘em) there are creative calls that imbue The Dead Lands with something extra. While the athleticism and choreography impress, some of the fight scenes hew too closely to overly-familiar kinetic camerawork and choppy editing for my taste, but this is a minor gripe for a film that does so much else right.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 6 ratings, 6 reviews
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A deep insight into the new Zealand native culture and belief systems, this generated plenty of interest alone. Although extremely graphic, the fight scenes were intense and we'll simulated, each strike brought shudders down the spine and appreciation that I was not part of brutal Maori history. An excellent watch!


BY thorinoak superstar

Nothing much happening here. James Rolleston was good in the lead but a part from that this film was awfully boring and even the fight scenes were a bit of a yawn fest. Don't waste your time.


BY smileyface superstar

A violence filled action film similar to Utu with the common theme of revenge. The chiefs son (a young kumara) learns life the hard way so allies with the Warrior to avenge his tribesmens deaths. Didnt think I would manage English subtitles with only Te Reo spoken but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Another uniquely kiwi movie. The Warrior is the man! More maggi mushrooms for me please.


BY Red superstar

This is epic. There are some problems I'd say, but all in all a really exciting action movie. Plus, it's awesome to see a pre-colonial NZ on screen - something I haven't seen before. The performances especially were fantastic - most notably Lawrence Makoare. Highly recommend.


BY Gaspardation superstar

The plot really doesn't make much sense, especially the kid is kind of like a fresh potato from the beginning to the end.


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The Press Reviews

  • Toa Fraser’s dazzling action-adventure is an imaginative voyage through a time of violent emotions. Full Review

  • Impressive scenery and action elevate [this] tale that is nonetheless brutal to the brink of monotony. Full Review

  • Expectations should be tempered... those expecting a simple action film may be disappointed. Proves to be a memorable, rewarding experience. Full Review

  • Energetic, glossy and exciting... doesn’t shirk when it comes to offering up bone-crunching battles and blood-thirsty martial arts scenes. Full Review

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