The Dead Lands **Dir: Toa Fraser. With: James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Xavier Horan. 107 mins. Cert: 15
It’s both appropriate and unfortunate that Toa Fraser’s film should bear the logo of Mel Gibson-affiliated distributor Icon: this tale of a young warrior’s blooding resembles Apocalypto in Maori instead of Mayan, although the comparison does it few favours. Despite a promisingly muscular set-up – survivor of tribal massacre leads his pursuers into no-man’s-land – the hide-and-seek games that follow feel constrained for budgetary reasons, and a self-conscious solemnity settles upon the drama. Tastefully framed and culturally sensitive, but even the action scenes – doing something Sealed Knotty with sharpened wooden paddles – underwhelm: I say it quietly, but I missed Mad Mel’s tacky showmanship and transgressive zeal.
The Dead Lands opens in selected cinemas from today.