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Thursday, May 26, 2016

New Film Release: Hunt for the Wilder People (PG) 93 minutes

This New Zealand film, written and directed by Taika Waititi of Boy (2010) fame, was released today in 75 Australian cinemas. It is a quirky modern day appropriation of Barry Crump’s classic novel Wild Pork and Watercress (1986). The film is beautifully shot and enjoyable to watch in a feel-good, outsiders can win in the end too way.

It is the story of Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) a twelve year-old incorrigible Maori delinquent who was abandoned as a baby by his teenage mother and who has since been shifted several times through foster families by child welfare officers. When placed with the Faulkners, Bell (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill), he connects with his foster mother and he begins to think that he belongs, as crassly symbolised by the hot water bottle he finds in his bed- but tragedy soon strikes.

Ricky sets fire to a shed and heads for the bush to escape the authorities who want to place him into another unknown home. Some police incorrectly believe Ricky has been taken against his will into the bush and this fuels wild commercial media speculation. What follows is a crazy, fun-filled adventure tale with obvious nodding references to Rambo, Thelma and Louise and others.

Sam Neill is brilliant as the distant, grumpy ‘uncle’ but gradually he empathises with Ricky as they together share hardships in the bush. Dennison is represented as a reckless smart-ass from the start but also develops a greater sense of awareness of himself and others in this coming of age film.

Waititi’s script is sometimes cartoon-like in its view of the world and the characters who inhibit it. He moves away from the realism of Crump to a world of myth, hallucination, caricature and overworked fat jokes- but that didn’t stop the Kiwi bros in the row behind us from laughing their rings out, especially during the first half. 

See my recent review of Barry Crump’s original novel Wild Pork and Watercress:

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