TL;DR – A bonkers fun film from first till last
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Do you know what I needed this week? I needed a bit of fun, you know what I think a lot of people need this week, a little fun, well, have I got news for you. It has been great over the last couple of years to see Pasifika Cinema go from strength to strength and today we get to look at another entry into the great canon.
So to set the scene, we open in on the great Baron To’a (John Tui) himself as he does a tour of his home and local cul–de–sac Kinlock Ave. He is the heart of the local community and he is most proud of his son Fritz (Lotima Pome’e). However, it cannot last and twenty years later when Fritz (Uli Latukefu) returns to help sell his house after his uncle Otto (Nathaniel Lees) stops returning his calls he finds that the sac is a very different place than what he remembered.
This was honestly one of the more interesting films that I have watched in quite a while because it was full of contradictions that made the film stronger rather than tearing it apart. To begin with we have the scope of the film which is full of grandeur but is contained into a very small location, with most of the action taking part in that cul-de-sac. This could have made the film feel small, but instead, it grounds the film in a way it needs so that the more fantastical elements don’t break the suspension of disbelief.
The other contradiction is the character of Fritz himself. His past is his family and wrestling, but that is not his present. He left home to study psychology in Australia and put his past behind him, after a very understandable trauma. In a lot of films like this, his present would be discarded to focus entirely on the past which never felt genuine. However, here that is not the case, he is both a product of the past, but also a product of his present and when he realises that the film really gets going.
Which of course leads us to the action, which is important in a film about wrestling and fighting. One of the bonuses of this film is that the actor for Fritz is well fit and the film likes to show this off. What this physicality does it make it much more realistic when he starts beating people down. The action in this film has a flow to it while not going down the road of long oners to pull it off. It is a style that moves at a breakneck pace but still allows for those impact to hit with weight.
Throughout the film, the whole cast is game for what is going down, which is important because this film is not afraid to delve into some important topics. Also to discuss this we will refer to the final act of the film, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. This is a film that does not mind taking its time to set people in place and let the conflict build to a tipping point. It is exploring issues of police power and abuse, issues of family structures, and the exploitation of traditional Islander cultural norms by people. Uli Latukefu is a real presence on the screen and helps propel the film forward. Nathaniel Lees fits the role of a mentor that maybe should explain everything beforehand. Also, for most of the film, you are sitting here going “why did you cast Jay Laga’aia?” only to discover, oh 100% that’s why you cast Jay Laga’aia.
In the end, do we recommend The Legend of Baron To’a? Absolutely. Now if you are squeamish about blood and language then maybe this is not a film for you. But if you like a film that is funny, with some good action, but also is not afraid to make a point then this is a film for you. If you liked The Legend of Baron To’a, I would also recommend Take Home Pay and Hibiscus and Ruthless.
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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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Legend of Baron To’a
Directed by – Kiel McNaughton
Story by – John Argall & Owen Black
Screenplay by –John Argall
Music by – Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper
Cinematography by – Drew Sturge
Edited by – Carly Turner
Production/Distribution Companies – Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions, New Zealand Film Commission/ Te Tumu Whataata Taonga and Madman
Starring – Uli Latukefu, Nathaniel Lees, Jay Laga’aia, Shavaughn Ruakere, John Tui, Fasitua Amosa, Duane Evans Jr., Xavier Horan, Sateki Finau-Baas, Eds Eramiha, Villa Junior Lemanu, Ashlee Fidow, Tawaroa Kawana, Lotima Pome’e, Ray Liufau, Jaya Rees, Kauri-Lee Wijohn, Lolo Rounds, Millen Baird, Siobhan Marshall, Tian Tan, Benjamin Law, Api McNaughton, Hayden Daniel, Christine Liu, Zayn Ma, Dax, Katlyn Wong, Atoa Peutangi, Michel Mulipola, Jamie Seu, Brian Toleafoa, Tori Marsh, Leilani Tominiko, Caleb Just, Rob Eden, Alfred Vodermann, Leroy Lakamu, Andrew Stehlin, Kiel McNaughton & Siaosi Fonua
Rating – Australia: MA15+; New Zealand: RP13;