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The Dead Lands
The Dead Lands, La Terre des guerriers (2014)
  • Director:
    Toa Fraser
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Glenn Standring
  • Cast:
    James Rolleston,Lawrence Makoare,Te Kohe Tuhaka
  • Time:
    1h 47min
  • Year:
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.
Cast overview, first billed only:
James Rolleston James Rolleston - Hongi
Lawrence Makoare Lawrence Makoare - The Warrior
Te Kohe Tuhaka Te Kohe Tuhaka - Wirepa
Xavier Horan Xavier Horan - Rangi
Raukura Turei Raukura Turei - Mehe
George Henare George Henare - Tane
Rena Owen Rena Owen - Grandmother
Pana Hema Taylor Pana Hema Taylor - Mana
Calvin Tuteao Calvin Tuteao - Ka
Jamus Webster Jamus Webster - Tahi
Bianca Hyslop Bianca Hyslop - Pipi
Isabella Rakete Isabella Rakete - Keri
Matariki Whatarau Matariki Whatarau - Tama
Wairangi Koopu Wairangi Koopu - Raupatu
Jeff Ruha Jeff Ruha - Mere

The Dead Lands, La Terre des guerriers (2014)

Official submission of New Zealand to the best foreign language film category of the 87th Academy Awards 2015.

All the actors underwent a six week training boot camp prior to filming to get them into shape.

Although the film is shot in Te Reo (the Maori language), director Toa Fraser doesn't speak the language.

Director Toa Fraser's first name actually means "warrior" in Maori, though he is actually of Fijian descent.

This film delivers on the trailer's promise of an out of the box, skull crushing, action epic. It begins as a basic fable, but gains complexity as the story unfolds, all while hitting frequent action beats. The warrior's character in particular is more than a typical anti-hero, having far more of the "anti" than a Hollywood archetype.

I came for stylish brutality and badass fights, and this film delivers on both counts. As a martial arts film fan, I found the use of traditional Mauri weapons a fresh take on the genre. The choreography also holds up to a Hong Kong standard, but with a unique and brutal feel. All in all, it's a very memorable action epic. More than worth your time.
In brief, this is an entertaining movie with lots of impressive fighting, a bit of supernatural colour, authentic period setting in pre-European New Zealand, and believable characters. The plot is simple: a chiefs son must avenge the dishonourable slaying of his father and his tribe, and with the support of his deceased grandmother (an effectively spooky Rena Owen) he seeks the help of a reclusive warrior with a dark past. The film deserves extra credit for the authentic portrayal of Maori fighting tradition and weapons, and the accuracy of the central role of honour, revenge, and supernatural beliefs in the warrior culture. I appreciated the decision to have Maori dialogue, I find the sound of the language itself expresses the warrior spirit.

The theme of honour and revenge was also central to the plot of Utu, meaning "blood for blood" a 1984 film directed by Geoff Murphy and set during the early European colonial era in NZ. Worth watching if you enjoyed the Dead Lands and want to see more of the warrior culture of the Maori, although a much more philosophical and slow paced film than this one.

Perhaps to add a little to the appreciation of both of these films, the depiction of Maori as extremely tough and fearless warriors is in no way exaggerated. These people lived very hard lives in a land with very few resources for humans. With no native animals to speak of, and few edible plants, Maori survived on little more than fish, a few birds, and a few berries and roots. The average life expectancy was early 30's. Despite this, they were tall, powerfully built people. There was fierce competition between tribes for resources, and they constantly fought each other over any pretext, usually ascribed to matters of honour and leading to endless blood feuds, but in at least some cases the real motive was hunger. Cannibalism was common, especially after the ostrich-like moa was hunted to extinction and the climate became colder.

Despite these desperate circumstances, Maori retained a rich mythological heritage and believed their land was populated by spirits, good and evil, and it was imperative that their ancestors be honoured and remembered, just as depicted in the film. To this day some Maori can trace their lineage, literally naming their ancestors, back 1000 years to the first tough, brave warriors that crossed the vast pacific to find and colonise NZ.

The only negative for me was that the film dragged a little in the middle.
Finally we have the Maori action movie we have all been begging for! If you have ever seen the Haka performed by the All Blacks, and wondered what these guys would do to their enemies without the limitations of Rugby rules, then all your questions will be answered. The plot is a Kung Fu style revenge tale. A young chief's son vows revenge for some tribal treachery, and hooks up with a mystical, wiser warrior, to take out a small army of baddies. Action movie aficionados will be pleased to see some authentic Maori weapons and fighting choreography, instead of the typical blade weapons and the Asian martial arts we see in countless movies these days. The acting is fascinating because you are basically watching actors represent their own culture from an earlier era, unlike let's say, having a Scottish man portray an ancient Greek warrior in a film. The authentic locations add to the overall realistic effect as well. I'm sure there are artistic liberties taken with the historical accuracy, but nothing as crazy as the 300 franchise. The directing is a bit frantic, with quick cuts and lots of camera movements during fight scenes, but that seems to be the visual style for action movies these days. Overall, this film is a fascinating look at a culture that is completely exotic to the rest of the world because of vast geographical distance and centuries of colonial influence.
The Dead Lands offers myriad of tribal warrior codes, brutal combat and near mythical depiction of ancient culture. Though it may set in archaic time, the visual is crisp and portraying the natural landscape with elegance. Clash of flesh and weapon are aplenty, this is not for the viewing of fainthearted as the scenes are surprisingly full of gore and blood.

Its premise is quiet simple. A boy's clan is attacked by the opposing rival clan led by the ambitious son of their chief. With false pretext and sudden ambush, the clan suffers greatly. The boy then must walk the path of vengeance which leads him to a scared ground and a warrior with dubious past. Acting-wise the film is brash, filled with both honor code and battle cries.

Casting looks good, the actors physically look intimidating. The old warrior has menacing air as one who has been shouldering heavy burden his entire life. This is an anti-hero story as well as how honor can mean so differently for each person. The characters all have their own salvation to search, but they do so with significantly different paths. Relationship between the boy and the warrior is interesting since both of them barely agree on anything yet still strive for a common goal.

Fighting is especially well-choreographed. In a few scenes there are mutilations which will make audience cringe, these are honestly rather unexpected. It's nice to see that the film includes a lot of Maori myth and style with motions as well. There's inclusion of mythology for unworldly presence, it's presented dynamically as how the ancient people would see it.

Unfortunately, the film possesses a couple of flaws. It's very combatant oriented, so some of the philosophical themes might not translate well for broader audience. The film has stumbled in halfway point as the visual gets uncomfortably dark and the pace halts.

Still, even with several hindrances, The Dead Lands is a great and brazen cultural visit.
Due to my current time restraints I'm going to skip the usual intellectually enthusiastic movie exaltation and just cut right to some idiotically strait-forward praise.

This movie was quite an amazing surprise. I didn't expect it to be so good, to the point where I haven't seen an action movie like it in at least a year. And when I use the word "good," it's to symbolize an all-encompassing quality. The depths of the human spirit were represented in the film, clearly and intensely, not considering it's depletion of maybe romance and humor, at it's worst. I found the drama unmatched, and the action and cinematography are extremely inventive. Not to mention: it's the only good Mauri period piece I've ever seen, so I think I might've been waiting a long time for something like this.

A true work of art.
I am tempted to call this the "original" martial arts film, the template from which all the others followed.

My reasoning? Everything about this wonderful film, the language, the scenery, the actors, the story, the fighting style, -- they bespeak a culture far older than anything in China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, or wherever your favourite fight flicks come from.

Something old. Something that speaks directly to your DNA. Something visceral.

Running at almost 2 full hours -- which would be a challenge even for JJ Abrams -- there were hardly any lulls.

The story was iconic, and mesmerizing.

And unpredictable, which is the hallmark of a really good story.

Near the end, just when you think you know what is coming, the "odd couple" revenge duo (see the other reviews for backstory) encounter what appears to be a beautiful maiden who ventured into the Deadlands innocently just to capture some birds, because they were scarce in her area.

Within a matter of moments -- no one is more surprised than the audience! -- the older man (the young boys Sifu, to continue the metaphor) is fighting this mere wisp of a girl. And the girl almost manages to outfight the man, the very same giant of a man who a few scenes earlier had chewed through a group of young warriors like Jackie Chan in a back alley.

Extraordinary and one of a kind.
Please note Mild Plot Spoilers* Set in pre colonial times we are taken back to a time when Maoris ruled New Zealand. Two tribes have had an ancient rivalry that has been put to rest but a young war chief – Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka) wants to gain glory in battle by reigniting the enmity. He attacks the other village and the Chief's son is one of the few survivors. This is Hongi (James Rolleston) and he goes after them – hell bent on revenge.

Only they decide to travel through the 'Dead Lands' where it is known that a warrior spirit lurks and will kill and eat any who trespass – but they decide to tempt the spirits anyhow.

Now what follows is a pretty full on action packed ride, with a lot of martial arts fighting and blood splatter carryings on. The landscape is show cased here too in some beautifully realised shots and the music is all done very well – with a mix of genres to reflect the on screen action. There are a couple of plot holes or stretches of the imagination, but they are minor and will only detract from your enjoyment if you let them. The acting is all pretty solid, but Lawrence Makoare as the 'Warrior' carries the role excellently with vim, pathos, cynicism and pure stage presence.

This is also filmed entirely in Maori with sub titles and was sponsored by the New Zealand Film Board and runs to around 100 minutes. If you like an action film with good old fashioned warriors but some modern fighting thrown in then I can seriously recommend this one.
This movie kept me interested all the way to the end despite the subtitles. The language used by the tribes in the movie added to the action and culture they expose you to. This was different and intriguing and I nearly felt I was seeing a piece of these tribes and their ways from hundreds of years ago. The action keeps you going throughout the movie and seeing these cultures in action keeps you in awe. Everything from the the battle scenes, language, scenery, and even the facial expressions captures these ancient people well. I'm the type of person who has to be captured to watch a movie to the end and this one did it. This movie is about ancient cannibal Indian tribes in New Zealand.
Seen at the 2014 London Film Festival, 'The Dead Lands' is pretty much your basic revenge flick, but as it is set in New Zealand before colonisation and is made entirely in the Māori language, it carries mucho filmsnob brownie points! Unimpressive young warrior prince Hongi is the scapegoat chosen by Wirepa, prince of an opposing tribe, to provide the excuse he needs to restart war between the two peoples. Wirepa subsequently leads his forces in a night-time attack against Hongi's tribe. As the sole male survivor, Hongi feels duty-bound (or should that be testosterone-bound?) to avenge his dead kinsmen and sets off after Wirepa's forces, who are beating a retreat through the quasi-mystical 'Dead Lands', an area that is home to a feared warrior who is also the last surviving member of his tribe.

Like many basic revenge flicks, this film has plot holes a-plenty: for instance, Hongi's metamorphosis from hopeless fighter to someone able to defeat several fighters at once is rather sudden; and from where did that well-made hut in which he nurses the injured warrior back to health suddenly appear - it wasn't there before the big fight! All the pre-battle tongue-waggling proved difficult for this white European reviewer to take seriously, although obviously it is of great cultural significance to Māoris themselves (not to mention the All Blacks rugby team). Budget constraints may have meant the producers couldn't hire many actors; Hongi's entire tribe seems to number no more than six or seven people. For much of the film Wirepa is seen with even fewer soldiers on his side, until one shot suddenly shows about twenty of them - up until then Hongi and the warrior's quest didn't seem as hopeless (or unbelievable) as it actually is. But there is a certain comfort in watching a film that reliably goes from A to B; and the battle scenes are balletically-staged (although I could have done with fewer of them being shot in the dark).

As for the acting, barring once or twice where he sticks out his tongue, James Rolleston as Hongi spends most of the film peering sulkily from between the curtains of his carefully-arranged hair like a boybander shooting the video of his next hit single. The well-muscled, statuesque Te Kohe Tuhaka makes a cruel - if at times camp - villain as Wirepa. Top acting honours go to Lawrence Makoare as the warrior - he's got the looks and build that suggest he usually plays brainless heavies (he's been in the 'Lord of the Rings' films but I haven't seen those), but in this he nicely conveys the warrior's rage, bewilderment and redemption, using humour when required but crucially knowing when to rein it back in.

Also worth a mention is the music - whoever is responsible (I can't find his name on the official site or IMDb) has avoided the trap of thinking "Maori film so it's got to be tribal music" and instead gone for a varied score with elements of classical and electronic that is most pleasing - the last time I really noticed a film's music was 'The End of the Affair', so it says something that I noticed it here! But the biggest attraction of all is perhaps the New Zealand scenery, with every tree, bush and blade of grass vying for attention.
This is a long epic tale that takes place in New Zealand before there were settlers. Two warring tribes come together for peace, only for one tribe to do the genocide thing on the other. The King's son manages to escape and vows revenge. As the victors return home, the son follows them through the cursed "Dead Lands" filled with witches and a huge cannibal warrior.

The film was extremely interesting for the first 50 minutes. I thought it should have been shorter. The film is told with subscripts. Lawrence Makoare who played Lurtz in LOTR, plays the warrior. The end has a slight twist.

No swearing, sex, or nudity
Sometimes "last of ..." is not that accurate, especially if you have two who can be called that. For different reasons of course. And while the main story is pretty straight forward (and you can see where it's going) there are some gems here and there. The action scenes are pretty well executed. My Maori is not up to the task, but the acting seems more than decent too.

Talking about tasks, the question is is our main hero up to it? Being put in a situation, no one wants to be in, but sometimes you are forced to be in, is more than difficult. On the other hand, you have his mentor, who has some issues of his own. The dynamic works well, though you have to be open minded with what it means to be them or live in that sort of environment - if you can't get down with that, it can be dreadful to watch
"Stars, hide your fires" exhorts Macbeth "let not light see my black and deep desires." Similarly, a vicious and powerful band of thugs destroys a village, murders its people, and counts on escaping notice and justice for their actions. These formidable Maori warriors from long ago slip into the forest with confidence that their heinous deeds will go unpunished. They believe deeply that such violence feeds their glory. They did not concern themselves that Hongi, a young warrior from the village they destroyed and burned, slipped away with them. They did not much hesitate to enter the forbidden dead lands where a legendary fighter is rumored to rule and reside. Into this fearsome land of bones they go, pursued by the solitary Hongi and soon a new menace that none of them imagined.
The Dead Lands follows in the tradition of great Samurai and Western films of the past while presenting action that is surprisingly modern and incredibly well presented. If you are a fan of the warrior's journey DO NOT sleep on this movie!!
THE DEAD LANDS is the Kiwi version of APOCALYPTO, there's no two ways about it. The two films are way too similar for the similarities to be mere coincidences. And as I consider APOCALYPTO to be one of the very best films ever made, this rather low budget riff can't hope to hold a candle to the calibre of the Mel Gibson movie. Even so, it turns out to be quite enjoyable as a straightforward action flick.

The story involves an upright, youthful hero whose tribe are massacred by enemies who then escape on foot across a barren and inhospitable landscape. He gives chase but can't hope to tackle them alone, so employs the services of a powerful and infamous warrior who eats the flesh of man to help him. This is where the film gets interesting: Lawrence Makoare (LORD OF THE RINGS) essays the role of the cannibal and is the only fleshed-out character in the whole thing. I love films where the bad guys are the heroes and Makoare's performance makes this film worthwhile and not JUST an APOCALYPTO rip-off.

Elsewhere, the film is heavy on the action, although not quite as grisly as you'd imagine. The good news is that the action direction is fine, with choreography allowing you to see the protagonists instead of over-editing things too much. As a whole, THE DEAD LANDS weaves a lush and vibrant-looking picture that brings to life the Maori way, and how many Maori action films do we get in cinema anyway? Watch out for Pana Hema Taylor (from TV's SPARTACUS) as one of the bad guys.
Hongi is the young smallish son of Maori chief Tane. They receive a party led by Wirepa, son of the chief of the neighboring tribe. Tane hopes to make peace but Wirepa desecrates the dead and blames it on Hongi. Wirepa uses it as an excuse to attack during the night and massacre the tribe. Tane curses Wirepa as Hongi survives after getting thrown down a hill. Wirepa decides to lead his men through the Dead Lands where a spirit supposedly eats trespassers. Hongi follows them looking to kill Wirepa for revenge. He recruits the spirit to hunt down Wirepa and his men.

There isn't much to the story other than a simple revenge. There isn't anything new other than some good Maori fight action. The acting is perfectly natural. The characters are simple. There is a supernatural side to the story but it's not really elevated. It may be more compelling to make this more of a fable and increase the sense of the supernatural spirits. This is a little too basic.
Greetings from Lithuania.

"The Dead Lands" (2014) tries to mix some genres, ideas, visual scenes it fells short very quickly in creating a simply involving movie. The story here isn't bad, but it is so uninvolvingly made that i finished watching this movie in like a week - seriously. I just didn't care AT ALL about two main characters, i didn't connect to them and i couldn't care less about the outcome. I liked the landscapes although, nature is very beautiful in here, but sadly that is the only positive thing i can say about "The Dead Lands".

Overall, "The Dead Lands" isn't a terrible movie, it isn't a very bad one either, it's just that i tries mix some genres, but fails to create a simply involving movie. The story is very simple, but that isn't a problem. Problem is that couldn't care less for this story - editing, directing and especially script are very poor. Acting was OK just by the guy who played this "flesh eater" - everyone else were very quickly forgettable. There are plenty more better movies in the market, you can skip "The Dead Lands".
Warrior. Mana. Honour. Rubbish. A less-than-subtle attempt to make murder and mayhem appear justifiable by cloaking it in tribal Honor and duty. In fact its rubbish, full of ignorant and brutal violence, and macho-male BS....not to mention a whole lot of clunky writing, poor plot, poor character development and utterly banal story line. It unfortunately perpetuates the myth of indigenous peoples being uncivilized heathen (which couldn't be farther from the truth) and does no service to the Maori peoples. If your thing is Bruce Lee movies set in the wilderness, with the main protagonists clothed only in feathers and ferns this movie may be for you.