A case in point is Geoff Murphy's ambitious New Zealand Western, "Utu" ("Retribution"). Set during the Maori uprising of the late 19th century, Murphy's movie combines the panorama of John Ford with the bloodletting of Sam Peckinpah, without really understanding the artistry of either. It is at once a handsome and ugly movie - handsome in its visuals and ugly in its overall inhumanity. Worst of all, it's boring.
Anzac Wallace is an intimidating, frightening presence as Te Wheke, an army scout initially sympathetic to the European cause during the battles between the British settlers and the Maori natives.
He changes his mind when his own village, including his wife and children, is slaughtered by the British in the name of "colonialism." He wants ''utu," retribution, revenge, and spends the rest of the movie getting it. So much so that I felt martyred.
He gets his face tattooed and goes on an irrational rampage, alienating just about everybody. By the end of the film, just about every other character in the movie wants a shot at Te Wheke. Murphy tries to pad this story by also focusing on the planned "utu" of a European rancher (Bruno Lawrence) whose own family was wiped out by the Maori rebel and on an affair between a twerpy lieutenant (Kelly Johnson) and a hearty, duplicitous native (Tania Bristowe).
This is the kind of movie that critics, for lack of anything else to say, praise for its "fury," not an especially good reason for seeing a movie.
If you go: "Utu" will be screened at the Roxy at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. weekdays, with additonal 2 and 4 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday.