Broken clearly a labour of love
BROKEN (M, 100 MINS) DIRECTED BY TARRY MORTLOCK
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Some days it also takes a village to make a movie.
Broken, which opens this week for a hopefully-not-too-limited run around our great nation’s cinemas, is as obvious a proof of that as you will ever see.
Broken is set in an isolated coastal settlement not too far from Gisborne. Logan (played by firsttimer and actual local policeman Josh Calles) is ex-president of The Mad Bulls. His mates are mostly still-patched hard arses with an ongoing feud with the rival Pouakai gang.
Logan just wants to be left alone to raise his daughter Tori away from the gang that has taken so much from him. Tragedy and betrayal intervene, and Logan is drawn back into a life he hoped he had left behind forever.
To call Broken an old story is an understatement. The plot is based on the 1830s true story of a Ngati Hau chieftain and his daughter. That tale was the basis of Joy Cowley’s Tarore and Her Book. Debutant writer-director Tarry Mortlock (who is also a youth pastor) has adapted and reimagined the story for the present day.
The resulting film sure ain’t perfect, but it has a lot going on to recommend it. A more experienced director and cast might have had the confidence to talk over each other, go off-script and generally give Broken the authentic human mess of real life. As it is, the leads are all a little hampered by some fairly stilted and over-written dialogue, but the performances are mostly good enough to keep Broken moving along.
The stand-out here is Wayne Hapi ( The Dark Horse), playing Pouakai leader Cruz. I reckon Hapi is just about the most watchable and convincing male actor working in Aotearoa New Zealand today. There’s a gravity and a power to his work that makes me think of what Bruno Lawrence would have brought to a similar role.
Around Hapi, Calles and Ruby Grubb (playing Tori, very well) the cast – many of whom are friends or family of Mortlock and the church – act out a story that holds few surprises, but which is winningly told and quite beautifully assembled. The camera, sound and design work are all worthy of a far higher-budgeted film than this.
Broken may be a labour of love, but there is nothing amateurish about it.
Broken is a likable piece of work. There is plenty here to suggest that Mortlock and his team have got other, more ambitious projects than this ahead of them. – Graeme Tuckett
Wayne Hapi, left, and Josh Calles are at loggerheads in Broken.