The Last Saint (2014) Poster

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It's a great story, a great cast, well shot and well acted.
smoothcrew9 September 2015
I finally got to see this last night, on the big screen, ahead of some festival screenings. Gritty, intense and emotional, The Last Saint is a coming-of-age story set in New Zealand's criminal underworld, and it delivers an emotional punch that will stay with you for days. It tells the story of Polynesian teen Minka's (Koale) attempts to support his meth-addicted mother (Vaele). As a last resort he turns to his departed father, Joe (Tuteao), for help. Joe is a strip-club owner and drug dealer who gets his son a job with the a paranoid, psychotic drug dealer named Pinball, played by Joe Naufahu (the director's brother). Pinball is always amped and completely nuts, and a great antidote to the 'anti- hero/cool' drug dealers often portrayed in movies (even those who eventually get their comeuppance). In almost every scene he is shirtless and ripped, pumped and bopping to some hardcore EDM. The diverse soundtrack (not all EDM) is actually a positive feature of the movie, it drives the film, without falling into the trap of 'montage'.
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Intense "Coming of Age" Drama
theredhairedcrow29 November 2015
Minka lives in a home where his mother obviously loves him, but who suffers from emotional and mental disorders due to PTSD and intergenerational trauma. She has long attempted to self-medicate through substance abuse, triggering episodes where she terrorized and abused her son leaving him traumatized as well. Like many children in such homes, however, he is deeply devoted to her, serving as a keeper, a parent, his childhood lost through having to take care of both her and himself, a lonely existence.

When his long absent father Joe returns offering him work, his mother having used all their funds on drugs, Minka accepts, not knowing what it really involves. Soon, the reality of the 'requirements' hits hard, leaving Minka between the proverbial 'rock and a hard place'. While he might gain a sense of belonging through the gang and attempts at 'normalizing the family, the 'live skills' Joe attempts to teach him and the casual, terrible violence and aggression often involved makes him question where will it all end. When tragedy occurs, Minka finds the answer for himself.

An emotional, intense "coming of age" drama that pointedly looks into the complexities and complications of life as a minority, but which anyone might suffer: that even as a youth, you are more often required to make brutal adult choices when all you want is a life like anyone else. A movie about the substitutions one makes when basic life needs are absent: the freedom to have a childhood, a nurturing home and regard as a human being simply wanting to belong and be loved.

The film was very hard to watch at times because it brought up memories of growing up, of seeing people and places like this, so it is authentic in that, and brilliantly acted by young Beulah Koale.
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A different sort of Saint
kosmasp26 February 2016
Don't expect this to not be violent, because of its title. It might be a bit misleading if you read too much into it. But what it is, is an action thriller (Drama), that packs a punch. For a low budget movie this is more than decent. It might take a couple of things on and therefor lose some of its audience/viewers, being too unfocused for them, but you can't blame it for setting its goals too low.

It also achieves being suspenseful. This only works if you get a feeling for our main character, which I think is really possible, with the structure of the movie and the acting in it. The human side of it, is what holds this above water and makes it more than just another independent movie. It almost feels like a personal story (dealing with family issues and all, apart from finally stepping into adulthood and "grow up") ...
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Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in a dysfunctional New Zealand.
t-dooley-69-3869164 February 2016
Minka is 'a good boy' he doesn't drink, smoke or do drugs. He also has to look after his drug dependant mother who redefines the word 'mess'. He is trying to hold it together with no help from the authorities then his long lost father shows up. This is Joe and he is far from paternalistic. He runs a lap dancing joint and introduces Minka to the seedy underbelly of New Zealand culture but with a Tongan twist.

That is when his coming of age begins and he has to deal with the drugs, alcohol, sex and violence that go with that 'scene' and his hormones plus the familial strife.

Now this is sold on its 'unrelenting violence', and there is some but it is done in a realistic way and it is the fear that is more terrifying and there are some show stopping performances especially from Joseph Naufahu ('Spartacus: War of the damned') as the rather mental Pinball. This is a bit 'nothing new to see here' in that we have all seen films with the same or similar plot lines. However, they do this really well and it is a totally independent effort that has the feel of quality for the most part and had me fair gripped for the most part so is one I would recommend.
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Trippy cinematography and editing make this a good show.
nzswanny24 July 2017
The disorientating cinematography and editing helped add to the atmosphere of helplessness in the shoes of a man in the criminal underworld, the film also offering a sidedish of raw brutality and honest dialogue. The cinematography and editing techniques are the real treat here however, and although it may not be an experience for some it's an interesting experience for others, showing us the fear, guilt and horror of the atmosphere in criminality. Although not entirely an action film, this boasts some terrifying fight scenes to add to the atmosphere of the mess of criminality, and the disorienting editing helped make the film display the sinful, guilt- ridden mess of being a criminal. The film isn't too short or too long and runs at a good length packed with emotionally devastating moments and a good, native soundtrack to add to some of New Zealand's atmosphere apart from the criminal one. Although it may not be for everyone, anyone who takes an interest in movies that think differently may want to give this a watch.
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A boy grows up.........
FlashCallahan12 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Teenage Minka is trying to care for his drug-dependent mother. His plight introduces him to three men, including his estranged father, Joe, who make great promises, but even greater risks.........

Joe, is a drug dealer and strip-club owner who sets up his son to work for the paranoid, psychotic drug dealer Pinball......

When you need help, and have nowhere to turn to, in an ideal world, you'd hire the A- team. But it's the real world here, and Minka is confined to a life like no other teenager.

He looks after his mentally ill, drug addicted mother, and money is short, so he begins to work for his dad, who is a salt of the earth type, be nice to him, and he will begrudgingly help. Cross him, and he will crush you.

Like most coming of age dramas featuring a strong, yet weak minded lead character, Minka goes through the three predictable stages during the films duration. Impressionable, the trapping stage, where he is in too deep to escape, and finally, the transformation, where he is almost brainwashed in changing his whole personality.

Kudos for the makers to almost fully independently fund the project, it gives it that dramatic grit that really helps the film, and some of the camera-work is almost intrusive, using it in a way where you feel like your in the room, such as when we first meet pinball.

There are some tropes in the film that appear in these family crime dramas. One that is most recognisable is the family night out, mum and dad have tried to bury the hatchet for one night, but there are a couple of men who are ridiculing Joe. And just like Goodfellas 'shine box' scene, they pay a second visit to the bar that night.

It has a feel of Once Were Warriors mixed with Michael Mann's Collateral, the night scenes are full of terror and the unknown, much like Minka feels on that first night.

It's an impressive film, the cast are wonderful, but it does have that 'seem it all before' charm to it.
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