Utu (1984)

R  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  27 June 1984 (France)
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In New Zealand in the 1860s the native Maori people fought the British colonials to keep the land guaranteed to them by treaty. The warrior Te Wheke fights for the British until betrayal ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Anzac Wallace ...
Te Wheke
Bruno Lawrence ...
Tim Elliott ...
Col. Elliot
Kelly Johnson ...
Lt. Scott
Wi Kuki Kaa ...
Tania Bristowe ...
Ilona Rodgers ...
Emily Williamson
Merata Mita ...
Faenza Reuben ...
Tom Poata ...
Martyn Sanderson ...
Dick Puanaki ...
Sean Duffy ...
Cpl. Jones
Ian Watkin ...


In New Zealand in the 1860s the native Maori people fought the British colonials to keep the land guaranteed to them by treaty. The warrior Te Wheke fights for the British until betrayal leads him to seek utu (revenge). The settler Williamson in turn seeks revenge after Te Wheke attacks his homestead. Meanwhile Wiremu, an officer for the British, seems to think that resistance is futile. Written by Brian Rawnsley <rawnsleb@natlib.govt.nz>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

27 June 1984 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Hämnden  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Anzac Wallace, who plays the role of the Maori militant, was previously a trade union leader and had never acted before See more »


One of the characters observes "Something wicked this way comes", quoting the title of the Ray Bradbury novel written 100 years later. See more »


Featured in Cinema of Unease: A Personal Journey by Sam Neill (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

"Utu" isn't without it's strong points, but it does suffer in the story department.
18 March 2004 | by (New Zealand) – See all my reviews

UTU (1983)


--"Utu" is one of the many films that prove New Zealand was a worthy place for filmmaking long before the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The scenery is wonderful in the film; there are a number of striking shots and beautiful backdrops. The production design is also very impressive; I loved the colonial and authentic atmosphere behind the movie. I also loved how the director Geoff Murphy managed to get all this atmosphere into the film and still managed to have some great typical Kiwi moments. One such moment is when a woman is about to shoot a man, and she looks in the mirror, seeing his naked figure. "I can see your bum" she exclaims.

--Though it isn't as effective as it could've been, the differentiation between the Maori and Pakeha in the film is still quite well portrayed. Things are never black-and-white, we are never really given a true villain behind the happenings in the film and any evil deeds usually have some kind of thought-provoking motif behind them.

--After the frankly boring middle section of the film, "Utu" does redeem itself somewhat with a great ending. The final sequence in particular was barnstorming. It had all this emotion pulling through, some surprises (Te Wheke's brother, Te Wheke killing that girl) and a very intense, moody feeling. A lot of this comes through in one big long shot, examining utu (revenge), death and culture. Now answer me this - why did it take so damn long to get to this level of greatness?


--While reading about the film I discovered it was 118 minutes. This came as quite a shock to me, because honestly…it felt A LOT longer. The movie just seemed to keep going and going, it dragged in various spots and aside from interesting character choices (Te Wheke shooting one of his friends because he was slowing down the tribe to name one) there isn't really a hell of a lot going on. This shows through how many goddamn gun scenes there are, and they're all mostly repetitive and look exactly the same in most instances. Long movies are acceptable, if they have enough story. "Utu" did not satisfy me at all in this area.

--The differences between Maori and Pakeha were well-done, but almost everyone in the film was labelled by this and not many of these people came through as characters, though they did come through as either one of the races. Te Wheke especially failed as a leading character. I found it hard to relate to him until the very last scene, and the 'you-killed-my-family' routine is fairly dull. Show me some more scenes of him having real emotion instead of just acting like one crazy tattoo-covered guy out for revenge. Also, the farmer whose wife was killed by Te Wheke was also a very dull and annoying character. One of the only characters to come through was the young man from the British side who was having an intriguing, well-written romance with a woman from the side of the Maori.


6/10 - Some terrific sequences and amazing cinematography do make the film look better on first glance, but underneath the surface is a film where really there's not all that much to watch.


Enemy at the Gates (9/10) Heavenly Creatures (9/10) The Last Samurai (10/10) Once Were Warriors (9/10) What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (7/10)

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