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An Afrikaner veteran of the Boer War has just immigrated to New Zealand and is hired to track a man accused of killing a soldier. While hunting through the countryside he captures his fugitive, only to learn that he's innocent of the crime. When faced with the life changing decision to turn him in or set him free only one man will walk away alive. Written by
Elizabeth Obermeier, Marketing Manager
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Arjan van Diemen:
During the war, me and my men would cut off the trigger fingers of the bravest British officers we captured - only the bravest, mind, the ones most worthy of respect. Do you understand that? That's what I did to people I respected.
Doesn't leave much hope for me then, does it?
Arjan van Diemen:
Hope kills fools like you every day.
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A visually attractive, if listless chase film set in New Zealand
Archetypal Londoner, Ray Winstone plays Arjan Van Diemen, a staunchly anti-British character, who fought against the Brits in the Second Boer War. He's come to New Zealand to confront them for scorching his farm and murdering his family. Instead of receiving retribution or an apology, he is invited to track a Maori on the run for the (false) charge of killing a British soldier. The reward is 100 sovereigns alive, 25 dead.
The casting director can't have had many names in the hat for the role of Kereama, so Kiwi Temuera Morrison seems stereotypical. But for a man who I still remember for T.V.'s 'Shortland Street', Morrison more than holds his own. Winstone's presence doesn't faze him. The plot ensures he is integral and not just a brown-skinned irrelevance, and he demonstrates an impressive Maori lexicon to prove it. It's not a natural pairing, but they have unmistakable chemistry. Both are educated, worldly and principled. They have a mutual respect.
Winstone's rotund frame (he's a Boer, but looks more like a bear) suits his weathered character in a way that it hasn't in his recent tough-guy roles. To track Kereama he has to be agile, self-sufficient and able to summon his skills as a South African bushman. He shows in a gritty, punch-up that he still has the moves. And he pulls off a convincing accent.
What stood out for me was New Zealand. Cinema has scarcely photographed a more magnificent land. The mountain ranges, woodlands, lakes and rivers are a pleasure to behold. You can watch 'Tracker' just for the scenery; it really is that attractive.
What spoiled it was the constant to-ing and fro-ing. Van Diemen loses Kereama every time he catches him, though their constant reintroductions allow them to size each other up a bit more. Kereama expostulates 'We both hate the British'. 'I don't hate the British', Van Diemen defies, 'I hated my God, for a time'.
I didn't understand why Van Diemen accepts the task. Money can't be his motivation because that would undermine his case for what the British did to him. Winstone's passion didn't come through for me, and Morrison's sudden embracing of Maori customs and incantations, including a flaccid enactment of the Haka while on the run seemed forced.
There's some fun action, however, set against beautiful, sweeping vistas, but ultimately I wasn't moved enough to believe in the characters or their motivations.
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