Worth seeing for the characters even if the narrative is a bit messy and unconvincing
It has been years since Jake split from his family and now he lives along with no contact with Beth or any of his children. When his son Nig is shot dead by his own gang, Jake comes to the funeral but is generally not welcomed by his family. His son Sonny attempts to get Jake to help take on the gang that killed Nig but despite his father's violent streak, Jake has no interest in getting killed for nothing. Sonny, Mookie and Nig's girlfriend Tania join the gang themselves to try and get back at Nig's killers.
I had no idea that a sequel had been made to Once Were Warriors simply because it was not the type of film I associate with sequels which I generally associate with Hollywood and blockbusters. The film continues with the downward spiral of the Heke family embodied by the continuing violent outbursts of Jake, the death of his son and the spiteful fragmentation of the Heke family unit. I was worried that the sequel would just be an excuse to spend more time with Jake, who was an impacting and memorable force in the first film. However, although this is partly true, the film still has enough of a story to act as a frame for this return to the Heke family and it mostly moves forward well. This is not totally down to the "who killed Nig" storyline but more to do with the characters and their stories the downside of this is that it sometimes feels like it is going in circles or drags but mostly it is interesting enough to engage.
The cast help make it work better than the material. It goes without saying that Morrison is tremendous as Jake he is a powerful heart to the film even if he isn't a likable character. The film puts a lot of responsibility on Eruera and mostly he carries it well despite not being that good. Brunning is much better and helps him carry his scenes with an enjoyably aware performance. The support cast are not as good in terms of characters but Smith is good and it was nice to see Owen make a brief appearance.
Overall not as good as the first film but still worth a look. The narrative is not all it should have been but the characters and the environment carry it for the majority even if it does feel like it has nothing to do at times. The ending is a bit unlikely and I'm not sure if the redemption through violence is a message I particularly bought into but it is worth a look if you liked Once Were Warriors.
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