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Utu (1984)

7.0
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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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Title: Utu (1984)

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Cast

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

Storyline

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


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

27 June 1984 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Hämnden  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Fujicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Connections

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

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User Reviews

 
Not a Great Film, But a Good, Entertaining One
13 October 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Leonard Maltin, practically the only film critic who has written a review of this film, states that it is "downbeat, dull, and full of stereotypical characters - without the compensating power of Australia's not dissimilar 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.'" It's a shame that the movie has only this professional opinion from Maltin and no others, even though Maltin is a critic with whom I usually agree. Being one of the few people who has probably seen both films, I have to disagree with Maltin's assessment. While "Chant..." was a very serious meditation on the nature and effects of racism, this film was intended as a lighter, more entertaining Western-type movie filled with sudden dark humor - the kind of macho, action-filled movie that director Walter Hill in the U.S. used to make years ago. I don't think it aspires to be the masterpiece that "Chant..." was, but that does not diminish its qualities.

Really, for a simple Western revenge movie, there are several interesting themes here. The first is the difficulty of maintaining a conflict between two peoples living in such close proximity. The British settlers, and even members of the British army, seem to be social neighbors with the Maori natives - trading, speaking each other's languages, and even joining each other's armies. Not only does this make pure hatred nearly impossible, but makes it difficult to accurately assess the motives of the people around you. There is something universal in this theme - this may be one of the reasons the U.S. had such difficulty in the Vietnam War, in that it was both relying-upon and fighting a local people.

The second, more obvious theme, is the self-perpetuating effects of revenge, which never seem to dissipate. Every character here seems to have their own personal obsession with some kind of individual revenge. Ironically, the one character who seems the most internally-conflicted and the one with the most to hate - a socialized Maori who has learned English and French and even joined the Queen's army, witnessing atrocities on both side - is the only one who can carry out "without prejudice" a formal military execution.

I somewhat understand why Maltin disliked this movie. A possible flaw is that there is almost no expository on how the character Te Wheke metamorphosizes from a loyal British Army lance corporal to a heavily tattooed, brutal Maori warmonger who will kill anyone who gets in his way. But on the other hand, this movie is not a character-study of Te Wheke, it is more of an essay on the futility of pure revenge, or "Utu." Really, the best reason to see the movie is its technical qualities. Director Murphy has a real kinetic feel for visuals - like Scorsese, keeping his camera constantly moving among the chaos of 19th century guerilla warfare. The acting is generally good, and the feel for the New Zealand wilderness is excellent. Yes, this movie could have been better, and probably should have been better given the greater seriousness which this subject matter deserved. However, it's worth a rental if you can find it. And if you're not a New Zealander, I recommend watching it twice; it is very fast-paced on the first viewing and difficult to decipher - it gets better the second time.


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