This film offers quite a fascinating insight into gang culture in New Zealand that is certainly violent, but also sophisticated and layered. I'll admit to squirming slightly in my seat for the first few minutes - that is pretty angry - but shortly thereafter we are exposed to the story of how "Danny - aka Damage" (Jake Ryan) went from being a small boy in a big family with an abusive father living on the poverty line to a feared and dreaded gang enforcer. Reduced to having to steal food, he is apprehended by the police and shoved into the care system - abandoned by his family and at the mercy of some rather brutal and predatory officials as he grows up. On the way, he befriends "Moses" (John Tui) and in order to protect each other and to get themselves some respect, they start a gang "the Savages". It's the realism that is striking about this Sam Kelly film. Such a far cry from the picturesque scenes we are accustomed to seeing from NZ, this offers a glimpse of the true existences of these men on the periphery of society with their own rules - an honour code - that woebetide anyone who crosses. The characterisations elicit pathos and detestation but as it builds, there is a prevailing humanity that has never quite left "Danny" and what he really hankers after for himself starts to take hold of, and question, his loyalties. Don't be put off by the first five minutes, it is an intelligent and thought-provoking story well worth watching.
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