Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

6 Oct

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Based on Barry Crump’s enduring Wild Pork and Watercress, with a stellar cast and Taika Waititi’s undeniable directorial talent Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an easy win. 

The film follows preteen delinquent Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a certified “bad egg” as he does his best to fit in, or not, into his new home headed by soft-as-a-marshmallow Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata), and abrasive “Don’t call me uncle” Hec (Sam Neill). No real spoilers here, Ricky and Hec become the centre of a CYFs driven manhunt when Bella dies as the unlikely pair try to stick together out in the bush.

Wiata is such a pleasure to watch, I’m so pleased that roles this lovely make their way to her with remarkable regularity. Considering how seldom good parts come up for women over the age of 40, Wiata has managed to remain a persistent and welcome presence on local screens for decades.

Sam Neill’s abilities need no praise, but I have a massive crush on him so I’ll sing them anyway. He is genuinely exceptional in his talent as an actor, and totally immersive in his role as Hec, as he is in every one of his many well chosen films. Add to that his palpable warmth, and it’s little wonder New Zealanders regard him as a national treasure.

Young Julian Dennison is engaging as wannabe gangster Ricky Baker. For such a young man he has well and truly cut his acting chops in some very meaty roles, and continues to show growth in his performance.

Rachel House also shines in her role as child welfare officer Paula, her relentless pursuit of the pair and generally awkward demeanor are the perfect offset to the easy way Hec and Ricky bounce off one another.

But this is once again the Taika Waititi show. His emotional energy is indelibly printed into every delightful frame of this uniquely Kiwi caper. There’s no mistaking a Taika film, offbeat, irreverent, and full of heart; he makes a hilarious cameo too!

In all Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a fantastically understated, moving masterpiece of New Zealand cinema. But with the ingredients it had to work with, why wouldn’t it have been? See it now.

 

Ed.

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