Yet another film that’s been on my radar, but never made the time to see in it’s opening run. How does that happen? Laziness most likely, but I’ll never admit that to myself. “The world conspiring against me” is the most logical lie I’d believe from myself. It’s such a full-proof lie and ties so well together than no idiot could ever see through it. Hashtag, too smart for my own good.
Anywho, I honestly didn’t know much about the movie. Originally, I thought it was a British film of some kind, but the more I looked into it, it’s actually an Australian film. And that old man in the movie was none other than Jurassic Park veteran Sam Neill. Upon watching the trailer, yeah, I laughed at some of the jokes that seemed rather brutal, but still hilarious. This story about an orphan kid just trying to find his place in the world, it looked like it’d be pretty good and even offbeat, which I’m always down for.
Finally driving my ass down to Los Angeles to the one theatre that was screening this elusive picture, I can finally see what’s been keeping this little movie in cinemas for the last… jeez, four months? This is my honest opinion of HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE.
Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is an orphan kid with a record of burning things, stealing, vandalism, among other things that were done in small scale, but treated like huge deals. He’s bounced from foster home to foster home, but always given back to the system for being too unruly. His social worker Paula (Rachel House) brings him to her latest attempt at giving him to a home that will accept him in the middle of the New Zealand bush, with an older married couple named Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill). Bella welcomes Ricky with open arms, whereas her curmudgeon husband wants nothing to do with him. Ricky accepts staying, even after a couple attempts to run away, never getting too far from the house and from Bella and Hec, who know how to hunt and track. Soon, after Ricky’s birthday and presented with a dog that Ricky names Tupac, Ricky and Bella develop a relationship. But that soon comes to an abrupt end when she tragically passes away and it’s only Ricky and Hec left. But due to Hec’s loss, it is believed that Ricky is no longer able to live with him and will be taken back to the system, which he doesn’t want. Attempting to run away again into the bush, Hec eventually finds him completely lost. Things get complicated when Hec is believed to have kidnapped Ricky and a manhunt is ordered to find them as Ricky and Hec begin to bond in their own unique way.
When I got out of the theatre, I quickly looked up on IMDb and it gave this movie 8.4/10. Wow, that’s “Top 250” worthy. Do I agree? Eh, probably not, but it’s definitely a good movie.
Alright, so both Neill and Dennison are great. Neill does a fantastic job of being this bitter old man, but you feel for him when his wife passes away. He doesn’t want to be a father or father figure to this kid, he’s kind of honest about it, but there is this subtle sorry that he has when he has to break the news to Ricky that he has to go back to the system and sent to a new home, but he clearly has no intentions of fighting for him. Ricky is a pleasant enough kid, obviously tired of all the moving. But you can tell that he grows attached to the country lifestyle, or more specifically, to Bella. This comes especially heart-breaking when she does pass away. What brilliant writing to make a character have so little screen time, but still develop a real connection with the audience to make her passing really tragic. I haven’t seen that since STAR TREK (2009). But even after all that happens, he doesn’t want to leave this new home. He even makes active attempts to try and develop a connection with Hec. Once they get into the wild, that’s when the real magic becomes real as Ricky learns more survival techniques, and Hec does become more fond of Ricky.
One of the other standouts of this movie is House as Paula and her security officer side-kick, Andy (Oscar Kightley). These two play like a live-action Jesse and James from the POKEMON show. Paula, like Jesse, carries herself like she’s the leader and thinks she’s the smartest, the craftiest, and the most important, when in reality, they’re both equally idiots and easily get foiled. There’s this scene as they’re looking for Ricky and Hec in the bush when they stumble upon Ricky by himself. They start screaming as they chase after him, but then stop dead in their tracks as they look down at a ditch that’s probably no more than ten feet deep, but they’re too scared to cross. So their plan is to convince Ricky to cross by bribing him with a small bag of food. He obviously declines and runs away as Paula and Andy take their sweet-ass time trying to climb down this hilariously unintimidating ditch. This isn’t the only scene like this and they’re all incredibly funny.
And last, but certainly not least… Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby). I can’t talk about this here because… you need to experience it for yourself. Everything with Psycho Sam is bar-none the most hilarious shit in the movie.
But having said my high praises, I did have a couple of issues with the story. First off, I never really got the impression that Ricky was a problem child. I know through half-second flashbacks that he’s done some delinquent things, but he seems like a nice kid when the story progresses. He doesn’t talk back to anyone, he doesn’t really curse a lot unless provoked, he’s just a normal kid. Maybe he’s just smacked in the middle of nowhere that he didn’t have a chance to do anything that bad, but still, I liked him enough at the beginning.
I also don’t buy Paula’s conclusion that Hec kidnapped Ricky. Ricky runs away after Bella’s death by faking his own death by burning a scarecrow in his clothes, and accidentally burns down the barn he did it in. After Hec’s left to look for the missing Ricky, Paula arrives with Andy and with the very little evidence that’s strewn about, she comes to undeniable conclusion that Ricky was kidnapped by Hec… yes, the kid who has a history of burning things down and running away, sometimes with stolen things… was clearly kidnapped by an old man because… you took five minutes to look at a burned down barn. To make things even more bizarre, the police seem to go with it. No one else seems to question anything, it’s just… Ricky was kidnapped. No other explanation. See the problem here?
A few other issues I had involved some hunters having a strong desire to kill the two main characters and just how over the top the climax of the story got and just how many people were involved in hunting these two down.
I think the movie definitely had a few of flaws, but the heart-warming connections the characters make with each other, the sheer amount of adventurous fun everyone seems to be having, and some strong dramatic moments littered throughout the story make this a very good and strong film. I can’t agree with an 8.4/10, or even RottenTomatoes’ 99%, but I can confidently call this a good film that’s worth seeing, so I do recommend it if you can find it out there.
My honest rating for HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE: 4/5
Got done just in time and leaving myself open for another busy week of movies. Here’s what’s coming up:
- SAUSAGE PARTY
- red band trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7fP9q_LyDc
- PETE’S DRAGON
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPOamb6d_20
- FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HszfdNS0JSc
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blAKCJcXC5c
- HELL OR HIGH WATER
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQoqsKoJVDw