We can surely toss Pork Pie up as the best New Zealand travel ad to come out in quite a while.
Based on the original box office crime caper Goodbye Pork Pie (1980), Matt Murphy’s debut remake sees accidental outlaws and their yellow Mini Cooper pursued across country in a film nothing short of likeable. Requiring your suspension of disbelief, this big-hearted misadventure, in the vein of last year’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), succeeds in lock step with what makes the New Zealand film industry an endearing gem; presenting off-kilter charmers that invite you for the laughs and have you stay for the affection.
Protesting for animal rights and chasing a lost love, our story follows failed writer Jon (Dean O’Gorman) attempting to heal his relationship with ex-girlfriend Suzie (Antonia Prebble), who he left stranded at the altar. An action which was promptly met with drinks meeting his face, paired with justified obscenities. It’s with his millennial mate Luke (James Rolleston), a troublemaker in the sight of bitter thugs, and his vegan activist partner Keira (Australia’s own Ashleigh Cummings), they form the reimagined “Blondini Gang”, the latest subject to media and police frenzy, who set to heal Jon’s mistake and cause havoc in the land by anarchic means necessary.
Free from agenda, pretentious morale, and a constrained budget consisting of a few dollars and a Snickers bar, Murphy’s film takes on large personalities and an elongated road chase presented with a great level of confidence. It’s a digital portrayal one could compare to an action-focused advert, given that Murphy has directing experience in commercials, but this adds to the televised way their vigilante journey is framed. Mixed and matched familiar figures from the fanatic psycho to the bombastic, all powerful coppers coming in and out of their journey with a fair degree of self-awareness to their roles. From the urban city streets of Wellington to the vast landscape of Lake Hawea, Pork Pie is a frenetic adventure that for a first-time director moves with an elegant pace technically.
As a character-centric caper, while not all that self-serious, it’s your expected tale of the failed schlubby guy seeking redemption for his wrong, attempting all chaotic trials and tribulations with rigour and charm to achieve an end that feels just. To this, I would argue familiar tales aren’t inherently a negative. It’s these tales that have been with us for generations and lay a foundation for our values, hence why retelling them is quite important, but Pork Pie does so with solid charisma and colour to make it a venture worth taking.
Powerful stunts, a cavalcade of good intentions and a “come on, have a laugh” attitude, Pork Pie works enough on its surface and underneath to ensure mutual smiles all around.
Matt Murphy is the son of Geoff Murphy, the New Zealand director behind the film Goodbye Pork Pie (1980) which this film is based on.