The Z-Nail Gang: Movie Review
Cast: Errol Shand, Tanya Horo, Paul Ballard
Director: Anton Steel
This week's second passion project, after the release of Kiwi film The Last Saint, is as different a beast as you can get.
Inspired by actual events from the Coromandel in the 1980s, it looks at a small community within the Bay of Plenty battling for the future of their land.
Racked with debt and preferring to bury his head in the sand, Errol Shand's surfer Dave finds his world torn asunder when a multi-national corporation, Golia Minerals, intent on mining gold in the hills, comes to town.
But his wife, Mareeka (Horo) isn't going to stand by and let the big baddies push them around - so, pulling together their community, she starts an insurrection against the corporation, creating waves and divisions not only in the town, but also in her relationship.
The Z-Nail Gang, for all its good intentions, feels unfortunately like a community piece of theatre or telemovie that's made its way onto the big screen.
Preferring to show a community of oddballs and quirky stereotypes that live in small towns, it paints a very simplistic view of life within a coastal town. While the concerns and motivations are to be applauded (the raping of our land and heritage for corporate gain), the execution of the story is mired in comedy that feels like something out of the 1970s British sitcom genre.
Aussie prospectors who let farts out every time they bend over and are bedecked in 1970s porno- moustaches from the Village People, an American corporate boss who's got a black stetson, a comedy overweight policeman who's always eating, a glasses twitching postie, an incompetent lawyer for the protesters - they're all along for this parade of stereotyped comedy cliches and The Z-Nail Gang really does suffer for it, as moments of mugging for the camera come to the fore, drowning out the quieter more empathetic moments from the likes of Tanya Horo's Mareeka.
While it's true the piece has been put together on an extremely tight budget, that doesn't necessarily mean there's a frugality of cinema on show (simply underwritten characters).
The relaxed vibe of the starting sequences, coupled with a wonderfully chilled OST, imbue this piece of Kiwiana with the effortless joy of the coastal lifestyle. And the conflict between Dave and Mareeka would have proved to be more of a fertile dramatic source for this piece, were it not jettisoned in favour of the more cartoon-like elements. It takes over an hour to get to the meaty part of the film - and a final showdown certainly reveals how situations can boil over, but it's a long slog to get there, thanks to an unsure mix of the overly comedic and far too occasionally dramatic.
The Z-Nail Gang may be a passion project for those involved, and their passion certainly comes through for the film - but as a complete viewing experience, it's unfortunately - and sadly - wanting.