The grittier the better and The Dead Lands is as violent and fierce as they come. Fueled with the simple purpose of revenge and honor, this is a highly focused thriller with fantastic fight choreography and even some unexpectedly powerful moments. Their actions are graphically abhorrent and so for a connection to form we must understand the purpose of their seemingly heinous behavior. Through wonderfully commanding dialogue, we learn of their pasts and hopes for the future. They believe the violence they commit is honorable and demanded. Though forthright in their purpose these are highly flawed characters who despite being on the right side of things seem to have very skewed ideals of what it is they must do. Being anti-heroes of sorts they are anything but the hero who saves the day.
Unceasingly boisterous this action thriller caught me completely by surprise. The action is plentiful but never without purpose. No matter if it’s evil thoughts or thoughts of justice, their weapons strike their enemies with tenacity and reason. Featuring an entirely unknown cast, they hoist this epic on their shoulders and carry it to a phenomenal finish that even contains a message of forgiveness. Even with all of the bloodshed there is a satisfying and maybe even cathartic ending that brings this blood run epic to a close. With a breathtaking setting, these actors were able to fully immerse themselves into this savage story.
Spoken entirely in the Maori language native to the indigenous people of New Zealand, this never feels inauthentic. Even the parts involving mystical beings and realms it always feels natural to the world that was created for this story to thrive. They believe that death is simply the next step into the afterlife and so dying is given new meaning here. It’s less fear inducing and more beautifully sought after. Not only is it something not to be feared it creates bravery in those that face it. They believe that their deaths should honorable and earned which is truly poetic. It’s a wonderful addition to such chaotic moments of brutality.
Betrayed by another tribe, Hongi is the last left to avenge his fallen people. Motivated but lacking in skill, he pursues his betrayers regardless. Given advice by his ancestors from the afterlife he sees that a lone wolf facing a pack is creating a no win situation. He needs help and the unlikeliest of people (or demon?) just may be his solution. Known as a monster not to be trifled with, Hongi approaches this assumed creature in search of help. The Warrior as he is called agrees in hopes of pleasing his own ancestors whom he betrayed through unforgivable means. This unlikely pair pursues the evil men who have essentially spit in their faces and slowly but surely they begin to wipe them out. Not only facing a substantial enemy, they also face their own personal demons. In many ways this is about standing up to what we fear most. Whether it’s a large foe in front of us or a checkered past behind us, odds are it won’t go away without a fight. And when Hongi and The Warrior take on their demons they do it with absolute ferocity that is becoming of a true warrior.
This is a tight and fast paced action thrill ride that demands an audience. Don’t let subtitles dissuade you from seeing this at least once. Its violence is plentiful and bloody. The interactions between characters are volatile at times and peaceful at others but they are always terrific to watch. The surrounding trees and dirt and protruding mountaintops create a vibrant and tangible environment that allows the audience to lose themselves in it. And the characters are damaged but still trying to right the wrongs of their world and it’s such a visceral, but fun experience. I highly recommend giving The Dead Lands a chance.
Rated R For: brutal bloody violence
Run Time: 107 minutes
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Xavier Horan
Directed By: Toa Fraser
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
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