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Led by an outstanding performance from Cliff Curtis, The Dark Horse tackles complex themes with a richly layered, unpredictable, and deeply affecting story.
All Critics (63)
| Top Critics (19)
| Fresh (61)
| Rotten (2)
Curtis is 100-per-cent watchable as a puffy, mumbling shuffler whose chess lessons double as life strategies.
"Dark Horse" falls into the formula of underprivileged kids challenging the elites at their own game. But the outcome is never certain.
"The Dark Horse" isn't always easy to watch, but Curtis's quietly powerful presence makes it worthwhile.
Curtis' portrayal of Gen's ever-present, invasive mental illness isn't mere window dressing and lacks showboating. The camera hugs his meltdowns with an uncomfortable perseverance as he talks to himself, hallucinates and turns manic.
The film never shies away from the hard topics, and the actors bring nuance and heart to this intensely dramatic and affecting film.
There are heroes to root for in "The Dark Horse," and you'll feel mostly good about humanity walking out the door.
Propped up by good storytelling and powerful performances, "The Dark Horse" is uplifting and moving without falling into the usual traps that occur with other films of its kind.
A hugely chunked-up Curtis, a Kiwi actor who's worked all over the world but returned home to star in and help produce Robertson's film, is masterly here.
This year, Disney bypassed the feel-good sports movie, and luckily for U.S. audiences, we got a smaller but better version with The Dark Horse.
A great, deeply affecting movie.
"The Dark Horse" fully understands that it requires more than cheap uplift to make its true story a truly 'good' goodhearted film rather than just a goodhearted one.
A serious, even solemn, tale of personal redemption.
You know, I wanted to talk about Cliff Curtis' brilliance as an actor first, but I have to talk about the elephant in the room first. And that elephant is how in the FUCKING FUCK did Cliff Curtis not get any awards love for his performance in this movie. I'm not saying that I really care much about awards either way, like I still found him to be phenomenal in this movie and the fact that he got no awards love, at least on this side of the world, will ever change that. His performance is not validated by awards, but it's just that amazing of a performance that you're sort of surprised that he barely got noticed on this side of the world. And I don't know why that was, but it's not on me, it's on them. I don't know, maybe it's the fact that this movie was released in 2016 on this side of the world whereas it was released in 2014 over there. I think it should be obvious that Cliff Curtis is absolutely THE main reason one should watch this movie. But he's also working with a great script rife with complex characters struggling with their own battles in life, Genesis with his bipolar disorder, Mana's father with his ailing health and Mana with the fact that he's forced into this gang that he wants no part of, just to make his father happy just before his death. That dynamic of the battle of Genesis wanting a better future for Mana versus was his father wants for him, which might not be the best thing for Mana, was executed exceptionally well in this movie. In reality, the movie isn't really even about chess and Genesis trying to find a way in which to positively give back to the community of at-risk youth all the while struggling with his own mental illness. Though, obviously, that's also one of the main things in the movie, seeing how Genesis manages to excel at bringing the group of kids he teaches chess to together, really, as a family. And that may sound corny in practice, but it's really not in execution. There's nothing sappy or melodramatic about it, which is to the film's benefit. I think the worst thing you could have done in this movie is used Genesis' illness to make him into a muppet or someone you pity. Or used his mental illness to exploit him emotionally as a character. Thankfully, though, the movie doesn't do any of that. And it looks at Genesis Potini with a sensitive eye and an incredibly nuanced performance from Cliff Curtis. The rest of the cast is strong as well, for sure, but there's no denying that Cliff really is the focus of it all, as well he should be given that he's the main character. And I've always found Cliff to be a supremely talented and underrated to a ridiculous degree, but even I was surprised by how great he was here. And perhaps that sounds like I was expecting him to be bad or something, but he surpassed even my expectations. He was better than great here, he was phenomenal. He's such a diverse performer, he can pretty much do anything you ask of him. I realize that I seem to be going on about Mr. Curtis, but he really is worthy of all the praise that's been showered on him, from me and everybody else. The movie is damn great in its own right as well, like I said, I thought the narrative and writing was excellent. I haven't seen as many films from New Zealand as I probably should have, but this might be one of the best I've ever seen from a land that I would love to visit one day. As such, this is a highly recommended movie, particularly if you have Amazon Prime.
The remarkable true story of a mentally ill chess prodigy.
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