Set in pre-colonial New Zealand, Toa Fraser’s dazzling action-adventure is an imaginative voyage through a time of violent emotions. Shot entirely in the Maori language, it creates a primal world populated by the living and the dead.

Posing as a great warrior, Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka) strides into the hero’s village and uses his unburied ancestors as an excuse to declare war. That night, the good chieftain is beheaded and the entire tribe murdered. The lone survivor is the chief’s son Hongi (James Rolleston). To the women who mourn he declares his intention to kill Wirepa. He’s only 15, but he will seek the help of the monster who lives in the Dead Lands, a fearsome creature (Lawrence Makaore) who slays anyone on his property.

The cinematography is nothing short of sumptuous, the characters are well drawn and the acting is tough, iconic and credible. Rolleston makes a noble Everyboy, gaining in maturity scene by scene until his final showdown with Wirepa. As that villain, Tuhaka is superbly fearless and irreverent.

Deborah Young
The Hollywood Reporter


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