His name is Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), he’s a big kid who’s had it a bit rough, he’ll tell you he doesn’t care about anything, ready to argue with anybody who puts him down and he’s constantly using words from pop culture to describe himself as a bad-ass street kid. Aunt Bella sees right through him in 10 seconds flat. A home maybe the most important thing you can give a child and by that I don’t mean a nice house to live in. Bella (Rima Te Wiata) lives with Hec (Sam Neil) who was a wanderer who used to live in the woods before he met her. Kids are not the only ones who need a good place to call home. Uncle Hec is even more standoffish than Ricky and the film remarkably even features him saying bitter emotional words to the young boy at times when a more mature adult wouldn’t. Some films wouldn’t stay true to his character nor some actors. I’m used to seeing Sam Neil be urbane and smart but quite enjoyed him playing against type while returning to his homeland to star in a big local production. There’s a nice moment they share up on a mountain where Hec reflects on who they are and what life holds for them. This is a film that remembers you have to have a first act for the rest of the story to matter and time is taken here to beautifully set up an important dynamic between these three characters that is very touching.

For reasons I won’t disclose here Ricky and Hec end up on the run in the New Zealand woods on a boy’s own adventure and there’s something nicely retro where a kid’s tale is mostly spent camping in the wilderness. They’re pursued by child services led by Paula  who is rigidly villainous but is given a spirited performance by actress Rachel House and delivers my favourite line of the whole film.

The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent but it is Julian Dennison who steals the show. It is a fantastic lead performance full of great humour and attitude before repeatedly hitting you with unexpected touching pathos.

The film is like a Hardy Boys tale for our time with playful film techniques including a Hunger Vision, a troubled youth for a lead, pop culture references and one spectacular car chase. Inherently a Kiwi tale with an appealing story that is universal to all cultures. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a charming film from beginning to end. Utilising the budget well, the New Zealand countryside hasn’t been captured this well on film since it was called Middle-Earth. The car chase alone is probably the biggest ever filmed in the country where even the NZ Army have loaned out their only two armoured vehicles! 🙂 I kid cous.

When the film’s director Taika Waititi was announced to be directing Thor: Ragnorak I hadn’t heard of the man. Well I’ve heard of him now and I look forward to his next films. As you for Ricky, you may not have chosen the Skuxx Life but you sure make it sound appealing. Big kids need homes and good movies – this is one.

-Lloyd Marken


    1. A treacherous path indeed with some of the blockbusters this year but awards season is about to kick off with the Toronto International Film Festival. I must admit I’ve been enjoying watching old Harrison Ford movies but this one is good.

      1. Frantic, Clear and Present Danger, Air Force One, The Fugitive, Patriot Games, Presumed Innocent, hell I even take Six Days, Seven Nights and Regarding Henry. Plus Indy and Star Wars. No you hang up. 🙂

  1. Hello Lloyd, thanks for putting this film on my radar. I admit I haven’t heard of it or its director before. I’m pretty sure the director will be a lot more well known once Ragnorak comes out. Good stuff!

  2. This was brilliant. One of my top films opf the year for sure. I’m glad you enjoyed it mate, I really liked it cos I’m studying youth work and I’ll be working with kids like Ricky. Like you say, kids need a good -home-.

      1. You’re right about O’Neill too, hee was really great.

        Have you seen the ad for this film?

        They play it at the Palace (dunno if that chain is in your area) just before the movie starts. It’s Hec and Ricky sitting in the wilderness, and a phone starts ringing. They look at erach other, around, then look at the camera, and O’Niell says “TURN YA BLOODY PHONE OFF!!” I love it, this is such a fun movie. So well paced like you said. That young NZ kid has a bright future I think.

        I’d be very interested in what you think of What We Do In The Shadows if you get the chance. I saw it when it was released, loved it. So quotable. I need to buy it

      2. Its been out for quite a while, but yes I totally agree. One of my favourite films of the year, definitely. There is just so much to like isn’t there? Particularly the NZ landscapes you mentioned, wow it was something.

        Did you notice the soundtrack? I thought it was really neat and unique

      3. Yes I”ve been radio silent for a while so playing catch up in more ways than one. 🙂 Yes a great film. Also interesting to watch the differences between the New Zealand trailer and the American trailer. The New Zealand one is more relaxed and shows off more of the jokes I think.

      4. I haven’t seen either, I intentionally avoid trailers, always get to the cinema 15 mins after the start time so I don’t have to watch that crap. Trailers just ruin movies IMO, I’d much rather go in blind

      5. Fair enough, I found the contruction of trailers fascinating and do enjoy them. But there is something to be said for going in blind. I’ve done that at film festivals with maybe just a blurb or picture to guide me to pick that film and I’ve quite enjoyed not knowing what to expect.

      6. yes same, its great how the Palce holds film fests isn’t it? I like the French one in particular 😀 Though I do also love Scandinavian films

      7. Hehe, the French one this year was a bit hit and miss, Scandinavian one had some great stuff – it always does – I missed out on the Latino one but hope to catch a few Italian flicks. Though like you allude to, it is a bit of a lucky dip isn’t it?

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