I found this film complex in its exploration of humanity, yet a profoundly simple story. At its center, it’s about the value of life. The characters are mature men defining themselves by their decisions, and cast in a struggle against their social environment. It’s engaging and tense, yet singularly rewarding to watch.
Set in 1903, following the Boer war, Arjan Van Diemen arrives in New Zealand from his homeland in South Africa. The British had burned his farm to the ground and his wife and children were taken away. The British implemented the first concentration camps used in warfare and interned the wives and children of the Boer guerillas. Poor hygiene and little food resulted in the death of many, probably including Arjan’s family. The British gained another colony.
The day that Arjan arrives, Kereama, a middle-aged man of Maori extract is blamed for the death of a British soldier and runs away. Arjan, famous as a guerilla fighter and tracker is offered 100 sovereigns to bring him back alive. The two men, hunter and hunted, find themselves to be much alike. Kereama’s life and his family are also victim of British colonization. The two men are pitted against each other in a life and death contest.
The scenery of New Zealand as a backdrop to the story of these two men is spectacular. In one shot, multiple waterfalls cascade hundreds of feet down a sheer face of rock.
The concept of a manhunt has been used in many western films, however this story is more like The Naked Prey (1966) starring Cornel Wilde. In this story, the protagonist, is set free without weapons by natives in the African jungle and given “a lion’s chance” to survive as their prey.
There are violent fight scenes, yet no vulgar language and no smoking. There is a brief scene at the beginning of the movie implying sex with a prostitute.
It was an advantage using the optional subtitles because of the strong accents of the characters.
Reviewed November 27, 2011 Copyright 2011 Charles Markee
MPAA rating: R for violent scenes.
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