The Dark Horse hits the kiwi-film nail on the head

I just returned from watching The Dark Horse, a new New Zealand film based on the true story about Genesis Potini, a charismatic chess champion with slight mental instability.

The Dark Horse film


Uncle Cliff Curtis plays Genesis (or Gen) and Aptent he’s fucking incredible. He scoffed down a whole bunch of pies in order to gain 60 pounds so wholesale nfl jerseys he sports a nifty belly over the top of his trackies. Combine that with a carelessly patchy haircut, knocked-out front teeth and Curtis’ signature droopy-eye-look and we’ve got ourselves a monumental entry into the kiwi character actor’s hall of fame. Curtis, please join the likes of … hold on, that’s right, I don’t believe we have a hall of fame for character actors. Possibly we can count Sam Neill or Russell Crowe… shall we count them? Na, though amazing, I think everyone will agree that Cuzzy Cliff rocks it out on top of the pack. Cliff, allow your fine self to be our first.


Cliff Curtis Genesis

Cliff Curtis embodying Genesis Potini

We open in the Gisbourne rain as our lead actor and hero walks down the street draped in a multi-coloured quilt, wanders into a second-hand store and mumbles incessantly to himself over a chess board. Soon, we meet his charming dreadlocked brother of high rank in the violent Vagrant patch gang, and his nephew, a well-meaning but insecure and beaten-down young boy called Mana, played by the boy James Rolleston who played the boy in Boy. James has grown up and looks it with the teenage trademark acne and scowl combo. His character is the most heartbreaking and pitiful of the lot. James plays Mana perfectly, with loads of energy but restraint. There’s a scene where he cries and I immediately lost it. As soon as the credits were rolling, the cinema was alive with whispers praising his presence on screen and I’m in full agreement. Rock’n’Rolleston.


James Rolleston in Dark Horse

James Rolleston plays Mana and nails it


Emotionally, this film packs a solid punch. It has laughs, an underdog story, intense dramatic status battles, a slice of small-country action, a coming of age tale, a monster-in-my-head tale, and great dialogue delivered with gusto. The only thing it doesn’t have, and it’s inconspicuous in its absence, is a romance. This factor lacking doesn’t affect the film at all. There’s a lot of love, a lot of heart, but no sexual lust. If you’re going to a film about a mentally unstable chess guru coaching unbalanced kids and you’re looking for oder romance, you’ve come to the wrong place. DO NOT TAKE A FIRST DATE TO THIS FILM.


Although, I gotta say, Kirk Torrance is a dreamboat. He’s solid in this film too, arguably my favourite part about it. He is a joy to watch.


Kirk Torrance

Kirk strutting the red carpet


Visually, the film has some sexy shots. We’ve got some out of focus city lights, we’ve got harsh shadows, we see almost every possible time of day on screen, we’ve got camera trickery involving Genesis’ imaginary nosebleed, and we’ve got a lot of handheld action.


Cliff Curtis The Dark Horse

Beautiful cinematography adds a bonus sheen to The Dark A Horse


The sound design contributes greatly to the rising tension throughout the film, as does the score. Okay, this is a point that I’m quite biased on. I’m a fiend for movie scores and I hold a lot of stock in the power of music in a film. While the music does its job in The Dark Horse, I was underwhelmed. This Moves is partly because my expectations were sky high due to the trailer music being so affecting. wholesale nfl jerseys Good gosh I wanted some strings, I wanted some staccato violins in the angry scenes but I didn’t get that. What I did get was drawn out synthy tones and a muted on piano, an unremarkable yet apt choice. This is the sole reason I won’t be seeing this film a second time in cinemas. Rest assured, if this film had a score akin to Beasts of the Southern Wild let’s say, a drama not dissimilar in tone, I’d be there again tomorrow.



All up, this film hits the kiwi-film nail on the head. It’s cultural. It’s beautifully made and obviously has a lot of community behind it. It sheds light on massive societal problems society we still have. Numerous people have likened it to Once Were Warriors, perhaps because they see a bunch of Maoris drinking and listening to loud music and their minds go to the only frame of reference we have for it, and I can see why. It attaches a story to the big, loping men we sidestep to avoid on our way down a small-town street. It lends a moment of reconsideration for the next time you snap at a streetkid or snub your nose at the ratty kid down the back of your kid’s class. While not the main point of the film, I walked out with this feeling: Everyone is fighting their own battle so try not to be a cunt.

And for this, the film is a success in my mind. For that cheap jerseys free shipping reason and all aforementioned, The Dark Horse shall take its rightful place at the top of the NZ film pile and kia kaha, stand strong, I salute you.


The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse – a hopeful, optimistic film set in a cynical, greasy world


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