Tracker (12A)

Starring: Ray Winstone, Temuera Morrison

Reviewed,Anthony Quinn
Friday 29 April 2011 00:00

The setting is colonial New Zealand in 1903, though in its panoramic landscapes and elemental conflict Tracker is pretty much your classic Western.

It is ostensibly the story of a manhunt: a Maori seafarer, Kereama (Temuera Morrison), is falsely accused of murder and, aware of the rough justice awaiting him, heads for the mountains. A British major (Gareth Reeves) organises a posse, and recruits as tracker an old enemy from the recent Boer War, Arjan (Ray Winstone), still grieving the murder of his family and the loss of his home. Arjan, much the wiliest of the hunters, strikes out on his own and soon runs the fugitive to ground, yet what seems to be an escort-and-prisoner antagonism gradually reveals a deep seam of empathy – both men have suffered, after all, the agonies of a subject people. The script, by the late Nicolas van Pallandt, brings out this unlikely bond by degrees – both men quote scripture as they reach (literally and figuratively) for the high ground – while Harvey Harrison's photography creates a mesmerising spectacle of New Zealand's rivers and valleys. Winstone, usually unable to suppress his cockney twang, brings great presence and (for once) a fairly plausible accent to the dispossessed Boer, while Morrison offers a nice ironic counterpoint to his opponent's dourness. Two dramatic killer twists are the bonus in a movie that puts an intriguing new spin on old colonial misadventures.

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