3 Mile Limit: Movie Review
Cast: Matt Whelan, Mia Koning
Director: Craig Newland
So, the first of two Radio Hauraki films gets the early sprint on the release front as the iconic New Zealand station gears up for its 50th anniversary.
Go Girls star Matt Whelan is Richard Davis, a man whose dream has always been to have a radio station and broadcast rock music to the masses in a New Zealand where stiff upper lips goes hand in hand with stuffy chamber music.
But the government of the time is not keen on granting them a broadcasting licence and so the battle lines between the pioneers of the new guard and the stuffy establishment are drawn.
However, Davis has a plan to ensure rock'n'roll lives - along with his techie pal Morrie, these radio pirates decide to head out into the waters of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf and broadcast from within a boat, the Tiri, in an area that's just in international waters, and which keeps them out of the long arm of the law - the 3 Mile Limit of the title...and in Davis' words, "Where we're going, we don't need a licence..."
3 Mile Limit is a bit of a damp squib to be frank.
Whereas The Boat That Rocked captured the anarchy and hedonistic vibe of the 60s and the taking on of the man, this David vs Goliath story has none of that. Instead, among the wonderful recreations of the era (all drab browns, and excellent use of technology from the time), there's a fairly straight laced story that's more suited for a small screen rather than a big screen outing.
A lack of real characterisation proves to be the fatal stumbling block for this piece - and the other problem is pacing; the story starts off with a gripping scene as the boat looks to be going under and Davis issues a mayday call before cutting back to one year earlier. But, after that, the origin story becomes staid and stodgy, before hitting a lull about 40 minutes in that grounds it in dry dock for the rest of its duration.
Whelan is affable enough as Davis - yet he is the only one who gets enough of an outline to give you something to invest in. He has a struggle at home with an arty wife, who's never quite sold enough paintings, the debt collectors are permanently at his door and there's a real pluck to this underdog. Unfortunately, the rest of his on-screen cohorts don't get as much more than a cursory once over lightly - and it's so distracting that the supporting cast are so neglected that when one of their fates is sealed, you really don't care.
Along with cliched shots (every time Davis delivers an inspirational speech, the camera tracks slowly along as the music swells underneath), there's just the feeling that this story could have been more than a plodding tale. Where's the pluck, the heart, even the passion for it as the good guys take on the archetypal bad guy of the government to get the people what they want....?
The final fatal flaw is that the film changes the names of the characters and some of the events - in a film which claims to be the origin of an icon of New Zealand's airwaves, it's going to potentially rankle those who were involved from the beginning. (Even though the producers have said those who were involved approve of the final film)
Ultimately and unfortunately, 3 Mile Limit is less The Boat That Rocked, more The Boat That Wobbled.