Friday, 27 January 2017

Pork Pie: Film Review

Pork Pie: Film Review

Cast: Dean O'Gorman, James Rolleston, Ashleigh Cummings, Antonia Prebble, Siobhan Marshall, Mat Whelan
Director: Mark Murphy

An unabashed slice of Kiwi nostalgia writ large some 36 years after the 1981 film become a bona fide hit and cemented itself into the national consciousness, the 2017 version of Goodbye Pork Pie is very much a Top Gear meets Top Town hybrid road trip that's unashamedly feel-good but shallow as it aims for the Kiwiana audience washing over the Waitangi weekend.
Pork Pie, starring James Rolleston and Ashleigh Cummings

O'Gorman is Jon, a broken man who's determined to meet up with Prebble's Susie after a split - spurred into action by an upcoming wedding, he sets out to recapture his love. But that nearly ends fatally, after Rolleston's Luke nearly bowls him in a yellow mini that he's stolen as the film starts. Offering Jon a ride, the pair soon find themselves caught up in a country-wide pursuit when Luke's boy-racing skills come to the fore. And with Ashleigh Cummings' vegan protestor in tow, the gang heads south.

Starting with a chase on-foot before transitioning to a chase in a car with Dave Dobbyn's Language blasting out, the chase movie's ethos comes to the fore, giving the start of the film a breakneck pace that's brisk and adrenaline-fuelled as the pedal to the metal antics kick into gear.

With Rolleston's restrained and hardly talkative Luke sandwiched with O'Gorman's cocksure wise cracking Jon, the Odd Couple vibe is there from the start, as the broader comedy elements set in.
Pork Pie, starring James Rolleston and Ashleigh Cummings

Complete with countryside cutaways that capture the beauty of New Zealand's open roads (at times, it resembles some kind of subtle tourism campaign masquerading as a film) and a soundtrack that's inherently Kiwi, this Bonnie and Clyde road trip wannabe is bound to find an audience who remember the original and want to wallow in the 2017's easy-going nature.

But as the increasing farce grows (the original was compared to the Keystone Kops), some of the broader character elements don't quite gel as they should.

It's mainly due to less rounding and the thinly drawn characters of the trio as well as the occasional side-lining of them as Jon continues his road trip to find love. But it's a shame because Rolleston and Cummings make an endearing and easy couple, destined to be road trip lovers and simultaneously ships passing in the night.

All three of them have an ease of presence on screen and work reasonably well within the script's severely limited confines. After the uproarious opening, the film needs to slow to deliver the exposition and back-ground needed and unfortunately, proceedings hit a minor narrative bump when they do so.
Pork Pie, starring James Rolleston and Ashleigh Cummings

But the action's never too far away as the infamous yellow mini continues to speed, slide and handbrake turn away from the clumsy cops and the confluence of coincidence that's in the story.

It's clear that Pork Pie is an homage to the film that spawned it - from the director being the son of the original man who made it Geoff Murphy, the whole thing is bathed in a love for its story and the faithful updating of it. However, it remains inessential in many ways, with its more shallower edges becoming more evident as the film powers to its end.

It's a shame that the underwritten central characters push Pork Pie into a more average footing and stop it from truly soaring. Because at its core, Pork Pie is about a car chase, a rambunctious road trip of revelling; this 2017 version of Pork Pie doesn't quite have the grunt of an engine to push it over the edge and that, ultimately, is a disappointment.

1 comment:

  1. I don't agree that it was a disappointment. I watched the original a day before seeing the reboot and I was reminded that while it may have been a classic perhaps due to the novelty of seeing car chases and quirky characters in a NZ setting, it certainly hasn't aged well. I'm not just referring to the fashion of the time but the dialogue, sexual themes and general attitudes of the charcaters; 'Goodbye' may have had one of the most memorable lines in NZ cinema but it also had one of the most cringeworthy - "if that was rape I might as well have been asleep" (Gerry). What's more the characters didn't have enough of a backstory to have the complexity to be likeable given their illegal behaviour. Indeed, Shirl was not only one-dimensional but contradictory, bizarrely claiming to be a virgin before shagging Gerry the moment he makes a pass on her. And apart from the drug use being rather gratuitous, as if the three lead characters are saying to the audience "hey, we're so cool, we're smoking weed!", the tone comes across as misogynistic, with Shirl constantly being referred to as a bitch.

    On the other hand I found I had more sympathy towards the characters in the 2017 version. Luke's personality is far more endearing than Gerry's, given his background (and James Rolleston doesn't have that irritating laugh that Kelly Johnson had) while Jon seems to have more of a moral backbone than John from the original, eg. he gives a toss when Luke does a runner from a petrol station. What's more, I like how Keira has a reason for taking part in the escapade - being an animal rights activist on a crusade - rather than the impulsive Shirl tagging along for the sake of it; if any character could be labelled shallow, it's her.

    Yes, the reboot is largely paying homage with it's similar story arc but there's still plenty of original humour which I found quite clever, and if anything the scenes that mimic the original (such as when Luke is lying injured on the ground) actually seemed more believable. So all in all, I think what Matt Murphy has done is smoothen out the rough edges of his dad's pride and joy, as well as given it a polish. I know which Mini I'd rather be riding in.