Plot: After his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery, Hongi, a Maori chieftain’s teenage son, must avenge his father’s murder in order to bring peace and honor to the souls of his loved ones. Vastly outnumbered by a band of villains, Hongi’s only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden Dead Lands and forge an uneasy alliance with the mysterious Warrior, a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years.

Review: The Dead Lands gives us a rare look into the warrior’s life of the Maori and doesn’t skimp on bloodshed. It feels incredibly authentic with all of the actors involved really looking like they walked out of the history books.

The antagonist Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka) is especially despicable who shows no mercy to his enemies but when he’s pursued by Hongi (James Rolleston) and The Warrior (Lawrence Makoare) he’s actually a bit of a coward. Obsessed with personal glory, he cares nothing for his own men which really is apparent when he slits one of their throats so the others have something to drink.

I have to admit that I normally hate characters like Hongi; this is meant to be our protagonist but he’s one of those weak characters who develops into a warrior but I much prefer straight up badasses like The Warrior (Laurence Makoari) who totally steals the movie. Hongi shows things like mercy which isn’t any fun at all but I guess he’s a man of honour… although that just makes him less interesting.

I have to admit that although the warriors were mostly terrifying during battles, the constant sticking out of their tongues caused some unintentional humour which took away a little bit from the action.

Speaking of action, we get to explore some Maori martial arts in The Dead Lands which looks very cinematic and is something a little different too. The violence is brutal and shocking, the way it really should be but as Hongi becomes more of a warrior; it gets even more satisfying as he takes his revenge.

There are some nice moments of mysticism like Hongi talking to his ancestors (mostly his grandmother) which creates an almost fantastical vibe which some surreal visuals.

Another aspect which stood out to me was the use of sound; mostly the wind blowing through the trees which helped build up the atmosphere. It was beautifully shot too with some stunning landscapes which can be pretty looking during the day and yet deadly once the sun goes down.

Director Toa Fraser is definitely one to watch in the future as he brings a fresh new style to the genre.

The acting was excellent for the most part but it is slightly difficult to tell when you have the bizarre facial expressions. The Warrior is the best character and is quite unpredictable; one minute he is a vicious monster and the next he is riddled with guilt for past deeds. His relationship with Hongi is what keeps the narrative interesting from beginning to end.

Overall, The Dead Lands is never less than entertaining with solid performances, plenty of action and gruesome fight scenes. It won’t be for everyone but it’s already one of my favourite movies of the year.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.