Once Were Warriors Reviews
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.
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.
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!" >>
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.