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DARK HORSE, THE: DVD

SYNOPSIS: The story of Genesis 'Gen' Potini (Cliff Curtis), a charismatic, brilliant but little-known New Zealand hero and chess champion. (Based on a true story.)

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Like most lives (and therefore biopics) Gen Potini's is crammed with disparate - and in this case desperate - elements, a richly textured existence out of which James Napier Robertson has sculpted a compelling film. Cliff Curtis delivers a spectacular characterisation, one which will no doubt be compared to Geoffrey Rush as brilliant pianist David Helfgott in Shine, as Gen has a mild mental condition for which he has to take medication, and is recently out following a stint in what he calls "the ward".

But Curtis in no way emulates Rush; this is a unique and self-propelled performance, making the most of the quirky character on which it is based, a man at once gentle and profoundly determined. Nicknamed The Dark Horse, Genesis (1963 - 2011) was a local hero.

Robertson's ability to establish the authenticity of both the physical and cultural settings is exceptional, and he guides the film's trajectory with assured good taste. The core of the story is well defined as the junior chess championship to which Gen attaches himself - as the trainer and leader of a group of aimless youths, The Eastern Knights, which he whips into chess shape in a tight six weeks.

Into this frame walks Mana (James Rolleston, effective) on the eve of his 15th birthday, when his tradition-loving Maori father intends to celebrate his son's arrival at the doorstep of adult manhood - in the tough old way. Mana is not really that kind of boy, and the conflict that ensues takes the drama through to its satisfying and true-to-life resolution - though not without pain.

I find some of the heavy Maori accents hard to decipher in places, but the general thrust is always clear, while the film's visual and technical qualities, matched by a terrific score from Dana Lund, enhance the film's impact.

Published March 19, 2015

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DARK HORSE, THE: DVD (M)
(NZ, 2014)

CAST: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Xavier Horan, Miriama McDowell, Barry Te Hira, Wayne Hapi, Lyel Timu, Te Ahorangi Retimana-Martin, Calae Hignett-Morgan, Niwa Whaturia, Lionel Wellington, Wesley Broadfoot, Tuhoe Isaac, Shaden Te Huna

PRODUCER: Tom Hern

DIRECTOR: James Napier Robertson

SCRIPT: James Napier Robertson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Denson Baker

EDITOR: Peter Roberts

MUSIC: Dana Lund

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kim Sinclair

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 2014

PRESENTATION: 16:9

SPECIAL FEATURES: .

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 19, 2015







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