Once Were Warriors Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 8, 2012
A powerful story of love, loss, violence and cultural awakenings. Not for the faint hearted, this film contains some of the most extreme scenes of domestic abuse I've witnessed. Compelling stuff!!!
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2009
I went for this one presuming it's a war movie. Little did I know that it was instead a social story of a family headed by a violent person. Anyway, as the credits started rolling in somewhat unusual way, I thought that this is gonna be some offbeat movie beyond my grasping abilities (somewhat is still left, honestly). Fortunately, it wasn't so. It was a simple story of a beautiful woman marrying a lower class, violent man and the disastrous consequences of her decision. It was a simple story of a woman's struggle to survive against all odds and who learns a lifetime lesson only after a dreadful tragedy. There was too much violence in the movie, but I can't say it was unnecessary. Hell, it was difficult to even merely look at the face of the lead actress after her husband beats her badly. I'm glad that I was able to sit through those painful scenes and it was well worth my time.

All in all, it's a brutally realistic tale told in an incredible way, thanks to the best efforts put in by those involved in the making of the film. Rena Owen was second to none in the role of tolerant wife, and Temuera Morrison was so natural as a violent asshole that you start hating his guts in no time.
Super Reviewer
August 26, 2007
True to the core...
There is something in this movie that ever body can relate to, from rape to suicide, from drugs to alcohol and gangs to gangsters from Parents to children, from boyfriends to girlfriends, from crime to criminals and depression to optimism, from loyal words to broken promises, from love to revenge and Traditions/cultures to poverty the list goes on...
This movie does well to cover all such subjects based on the truest nature of any community...Local and Global.
Super Reviewer
½ December 7, 2006
Directed by: Lee Tamahori.
Starring: Rena Owen, Temuera Morrison, Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell, Julian Arahanga.

<<"Our people once were warriors. But unlike you Jake, they were people with mana, pride; people with spirit. If my spirit can survive living with you for eighteen years, then I can survive anything.">>

The story follows a Maori family, descendants of warriors through a course of several weeks. The father is a violent unrelenting man who frequently beats his wife when drunk, while she struggles to keep the family together. But when her oldest son suddenly joins a gang, her youngest son is in trouble with the police and her daughter is keeping a serious secret from everyone, everything leads to an unexpected and brutal end.

I am speechless. I will tell it straight and say that the main reason I held off from ever seeing this film was because of the culture behind the film. Living in New Zealand, I have grown up around it and was forced to learn about the history throughout my school years and when you meet the worst of them on the streets, it puts you right off...but I'm glad I finally saw this.

This is bound to cause a laugh but with Lee Tamahori's direction debut, it is outstanding. A man who showed such promise, he went way downhill from here. But away from that, he delivers a strong direction debut, deftly keeping the momentum pumping throughout the strong story and he delivers the realistic ways in the most brutal and uncompromising way, but that is exactly what gives the film its kick.

The screenplay is astonishingly rich and realistic. Each main character is given there own problems but never as a plot 'ploy', but as a truthful and powerful representation of an unfortunately messy culture and there ideals.

The acting got me to my feet. Sure there are some very small sub characters where the actors are horrible, but its the leading roles of the family that deliver the punches (no pun intended). Temuera Morrison is shockingly real as the violent drunk father, like every character, he is given moments to shine through and he certainly doesn't back down and he is a powerful figure on screen. Mamangaroa Kerr-Bell, someone I haven't heard of doesn't do to badly for someone with little acting experience, her powerful character is shared nicely with some moments of realism thanks to her. But after all is said and done with these actors, it is Rena Owen who got me to my feet and I am shocked to see that she did not get more recognition at higher awards. She delivers one of the most powerful and emotional roles I have ever seen in a New Zealand film, playing a mother caught in the middle of it all, trying to cope with the shocking truths, she bought a lump to my throat that I found hard to keep down, she was outstanding.

It's one hell of a hard film to watch, I was surprised to finally say 'Oh my god' out loud in a film and that a hard thing to do. Brutal, violent and both shockingly emotion and raw, thanks to a brilliant direction debut, a thoughtful and realistic script and many unexpectedly strong performances, Once Were Warriors is the best New Zealand film ever made, that might just be my opinion, but I have yet to find one that delivers such a punch on so many levels.


<< "I bought seafood today - bloody everything! Just wanted to put a smile on her face. Think she'd let me? Not a chance. All I said was that I got laid off. Anybody would've thought I'd told her my prick had dropped off!" >>
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2008
A brutal, raw film about domestic violence and poverty in an urbanizing Maori community in New Zealand, this film is a compelling treatment of Alan Duff's novel of the same name.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2007
Yet, it deserves all the praise it has got. A sometimes unpleasant, but never superficial tale of pure raw emotions flowing trough the veins of it's characters. The film never judges them, even Jake, who just happens to act like that because life has never showed him another way of resolving things.

More than anything, the casting makes this stand so much. Oh yeah, there was a sequel it seems, but lacking all the power of the first one.
Super Reviewer
½ April 4, 2006
You must be in a very good mood when you see this movie. Your biorhythms should be triple peaking, or you will surely be down by the time it's over. When I think of this one, movies like Elephant and American History X come to mind. The intensity does not let up; it's like a huge, unrelenting knot in your stomach. Temuera Morrison is astonishing, this cast is all-around excellent, and the story is as much about the ravages of Westernization as it is about dealing -- or not -- with the consequences. Either you bend but cope, or you break. The only reason why I don't give it five stars is because it resolves a little too easily. Grace's suffering and death almost seem overlooked in the rush to the finish. But then again, maybe there is no justice in this world. If you think Lee Tamahori did an interesting job of directing here, you might also want to check out Mulholland Falls.
Super Reviewer
December 22, 2006
Deeply sorrowful. Starts very slow and by the end of the movie you are so hooked, wanting to seek justice for the innocents in this film.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2012
An attempt to recapture spirit by down and out Maori youths. Inspiring and real.
Super Reviewer
November 21, 2007
Very good film if you've got the stomach for it.
Super Reviewer
½ June 6, 2009
If you want to understand Kiwi culture, this film is a must-see. It is extremely powerful and disturbing.
Super Reviewer
September 28, 2007
Extremely powerful film, superb story and very well acted.
Super Reviewer
January 15, 2007
Never judge a book by it's cover suits this gem perfectly. I remember seeing this on the shelf at my parents video store and avoiding it because the cover was shiet. I just watched it today and was totally blown away. The best film to come out of New Zealand ever "in my opinion".
Super Reviewer
October 13, 2006
A fantastic film!
November 13, 2014
Difficult at times to watch, this well acted drama doesn't do enough to tell us who the Maori people are and possibly why they are in the dire straits they live in - similar to Native Americans in this county. The domestic violence and rampant alcohol abuse is so pervasive that the characters don't flinch or think twice about it. This type of movie, like Leaving Las Vegas, just can't be enjoyed.
June 19, 2009
Rough and hard to swallow, but does it represent the status of current New Zealand Maori cultures and their wedlock? Of the two Kiwi dramas I've seen (Whale Rider and Once Were Warriors) there is a deeply rooted misogynistic atmosphere with ass-backwards father figures. It's almost like a calling out for help to end the conservative attitudes. In Once Were Warriors, the problems in the family are as bad as they get, without exaggerating. You genuinely feel that you're involved with the lot and that you're inflicted by their woes, which appear in the blink of an eye and impact with wave after wave of undetected brutality. Great acting and pretty engrossing for the most part, but probably not for a select number of people as it brings up unpleasant familial tensions quite frequently. Cool soundtrack.
June 29, 2009
Outstanding social drama about the difficult life of a Maori family of regal lineage who fall into the moral trap of alcoholism and resulting violence at the hands of a brutal patriarch. This one is depressing compared to usually uplifting films I like but definitely worth watching for the brilliant acting.
June 19, 2009
This movie is a hard one to watch...it don't hold anything back. It makes you cringe just knowing this does happen and a lot of it happens on the Reservations.
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