Review: Once Were Warriors
Blu-ray: Once Were Warriors (1994)
Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison) is a violent, abusive, and borderline alcoholic husband to Beth (Rena Owen) and father of their 5 children. His life revolves around ‘being a man’, which in his mind consists of drinking with his mates, having big parties at home, and the occasional fight…sometimes with Beth on the receiving end of his fiery, fist throwing temper.
Beth and the younger kids begrudgingly tolerate Jake’s behaviour, as the constant threat of yet another of his uncontrollable outbursts keeps them from voicing (and acting upon) their true feelings towards him. Only the older son Nig (Julian Arahanga) has managed to escape the turbulent household. Though he, ironically, is adopted into a local gang whereby he must first undergo a severe beating in a brutal initiation ritual before he can be accepted as one of them.
When the eldest daughter Grace (Mamaengora Kerr-Bell) is raped (while a family party is in full swing just outside the bedroom door) by ‘Uncle’ Bully (Chris Curtis), the ripple effect from this horrific event has violent and emotional consequences for all involved, whereby the trajectory of peoples lives will be changed forever.
Director Lee Tamahori crafted a hard hitting (both literally and figuratively) narrative that puts you right in the middle of this powder keg family, where the slightest look or wrong word can lead to an explosion of verbal and physical punches.
Unrelenting in its depiction of mental and bodily abuse (most often to the long suffering Beth, whose performance by Rena Owen rightfully won her many awards), Once Were Warriors is an attack on the senses (and sensibilities) that stays with you for a long time after the final credits have rolled.
Containing characters the you actually care for, and some that you despise, you are emotionally engaged from the first few minutes, and each punch thrown and vile word shouted, has an impact on you as you are empathetically bonded with the well written and acted characters.
Once Were warriors is tough to watch, leaving you emotionally drained by the end. The characters stay with you, and you find yourself extrapolating what became of them. This is because you actually care for each and every one of them…something that is all too amiss in the blockbuster releases that dominate the multiplexes today.
Almost 25 years after its release, Once Were Warriors still holds up as a classic piece of cinema as it did upon its release in 1994. An essential purchase for the movie alone, but which also features a fascinating an insightful documentary on the cast and crew during a 2004 reunion.
- Once Were Warriors – Where Are They Now – NEW documentary looking back at the film’s production and impact as well as re-uniting the cast 20 years later. (52 min).
- Directing The Warriors – An interview with Lee Tamahori
Once Were Warriors is released on 19th February 2018 and you can buy it by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes.