TL;DR – Some of the best car chases I have seen, but this is coupled with a story that just doesn’t work all that well
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
So this is a bit of a perplexing film because there are some parts that really work, they pull you into this world, and you be sitting there having a ball watching it unfold. However, then the story, or lack of story, or some other factor rears its head and yanks you right out of the film. This creates a dissidence that on the one hand makes it difficult to review, but on the other makes the film interesting to dissect. So since I’m a cup half full kind of person, we will look at what worked before explore some of the film’s issues, however, before we dive into all that jazz, let’s set the scene.
The film opens on our two leads having a very bad day, a very bad day indeed. Luke (James Rolleston) is being chased through a car yard by some goons looking to do him harm, luckily he is able to start the Mini Hatch that was stashed in a garage, and he was able to escape. While Jon (Dean O’Gorman) is a writer living on his friend’s couch after breaking up with his girlfriend Susie (Antonia Prebble). On the way to a wedding to try and win Susie back, his old bomb of a car breaks down, and then sets on fire destroying all his belonging bar the suit he is wearing. Well not letting a little thing like the immolation of all his prized positions get in his way, he starts to walk across the North Island, hoping to hitch a ride so he can make it to the wedding in time. Well, it just so happens that Luke is driving by, at some speed, and after almost running Jon down he agrees to give him a life. Some small problems with all this, Luke does not own the car, and Susie wants nothing to do with Jon, and well it’s not long until the police come across this speeding yellow Mini.
Now without a doubt, the highlight of Pork Pie is the car chase sequences peppered throughout the film. One of the things I liked is that the filmmakers understood that the audience could become fatigued from all the racing after a while, so they go out of the way to stage each of the chases in different areas of New Zealand like in the Wellington CBD, or in the countryside, or by the side of a lake. This change up keeps each of the sequences feeling fresh, and also has the side effect of showing off the New Zealand countryside, and yes we know, New Zealand is beautiful, but it was fun seeing them drive/race down roads I have driven on before. From a technical side of things each of the car chases were really well filmed, yes there are a lot of cuts, but the editor cut on the action so there was never a time when you could not work out what was happening. Now while they might not reach Baby Driver (Review) levels, they are also working on about a 10th of the budget, and what they do with that small budget is really impressive.
As well as this, I did like the acting of the cast, with each of the three leads having great chemistry with each other. Now, this is important because we spend just about the whole road trip with just them, so if they didn’t work together Pork Pie would have been dead on arrival. Luke is the kid that knows about cars because he has had to in order to survive, he takes time to warm up to and confide with people for good reason. Keira (Ashleigh Cummings) could have very easily fallen into the manic pixie dream girl stereotype, but instead, she injects depth and nuance to her performance. Now with Jon, we hit the first major issue with the movie, while I think Dean O’Gorman is giving a good performance, I could not at any point during the film care about his self-made predicament.
Now this segue us into the big issue with Pork Pie and that is its story, now I know this is based on an earlier film, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t tell you if the issues are just replicating problems of the past or if they are an issue with the adaptation. Now as we will be talking about the story there may be some [SPOILERS] ahead. Jon is trying to drive across New Zealand to get to Invercargill to do this big romantic gesture to win back his love Susie, well frankly after what he did, I wouldn’t take him back. So this takes most of the dramatic weight of the film away, because I found myself not really caring if he made it or got arrested in the process. To add to this, the film can’t quite decide on the tone, is it a slapstick comedy movie, or is it going for something more serious, now you can straddle the line between the two, but I don’t think Pork Pie pulled that off. Also, there is this large section during the second act when we are confined to a train, and it is a slog to get through. This is a big problem because the film just grinds to a halt from the moment they get on the train, to the moment they leave and you are sitting there wondering when the film is going to start again. Also, there were a couple of awkward sex scenes that probably didn’t need to be there.
Now there is a lot to recommend Pork Pie, there are some truly funny moments, an odd selection of supporting characters, and some top-notch car chases. It is just that the story and pacing don’t in any way help it shine, which is a pity. However, all this being said Pork Pie is still worth a watch, though I can’t help but think I just watched a 90-minute advertisement for Mini.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Pork Pie
Directed by – Matt Murphy
Written by – Matt Murphy
Based on – Goodbye Pork Pie by Geoff Murphy and Ian Mune
Music by – Jonathan Crayford
Cinematography by – Crighton Bone
Edited by – Jonathan Woodford-Robinson
Starring – Dean O’Gorman, James Rolleston, Ashleigh Cummings, Antonia Prebble, Thomas Sainsbury & Rima Te Wiata
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: na; United States: na