Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
August 31, 2018
Read this book in my teens as a big Barry Crump fan but gave up waiting for the film I knew Waititi signed on to create. Boy came instead, and directing the next Thor sequel surely meant Wild Pork and Watercress would never be made. But here it is, under a more cinematic title drawing on wilderbeast never mentioned in the pages! In turn, the film doesn’t mention pork or watercress. No bushcraft but still a brilliant flick.
The evil social service bureaucrat armed by the state with police, military, paramilitary, and sloganised propaganda is the hunter. She’s determined the child not enjoy the bond of a father figure and Sam Neil’s character has to be dragged kicking and fracturing into not going along with that. In the book I remember him taking a principled stand. Rhys Darby’s character is allowed to speak the most blatantly anarchist truths because his name is ‘Psycho Sam’ and wears a tinfoil hat.
Huge fun for me, so glad to have a Crump film. Relief to see again this warm, intelligent, benevolent vein of NZ humour from Fred Dagg, Billy T, Mark Wright & Rima Te Wiata, and Flight of Concords tradition. That’s instead of all the ‘7 Days’ exploitation comedy and dark slasher and carnivorous sheep mainstream junk we get.
To please me better, a few things. More bitterness and hurt could’ve been shown than was hinted at in Ricky’s foster care hell. Something more reflective of Crump’s own endless fear as a boy, useless policemen, salvation in the bush. Also more adverse outcome to being state-napped at the end or else what was the point of overcoming it? The film lets the state off far too lightly. Finally, I wanted Sam Neil’s character to open his heart to the kid not maintain the Fretful Sleeper/Cinema of Unease Kiwi male status quo. If we still can’t do it in our art how can we do it in real life?
[1/April/2016; High time I published this review!]
Image ref. Travis Ruiz