He is the pinnacle of ferocious masculinity in The Dead Lands - even more than the actual villains - commanding multiple wives and slaughtering foes with a single blow. The assessment of whether strength or agility might be key to power is raised throughout the action as Hongi battles to 'become a man' as well as questions about the nobility of death and murder. Both Hongi and the spectral warrior are subject to the judgement of their ancestors in the film's more supernatural moments which include a brood of witches, a visit from a long-dead grandmother and hallucinatory commune with the spirits. These are all interesting asides from the core action. Their negotiation of the stunning New Zealand landscape is visually glorious as one may expect, though cinematographer Leon Narbey steeps the screen in ominous shadows, even in the bright sunlight the forest canopy does its work. Though breakneck editing of the super close-up fight sequences can mean that the choreography is lost at times, it retains a blistering kinetic energy and every crunched bone is felt. The bruises and path may be familiar, but The Dead Lands does enough to seem fresh and grips throughout.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson