STUDIOCANAL (2017)

 

Director: Matt Murphy

 

Starring: Dean O’Gorman, James Rolleston, Ashleigh Cummings, Antonia Prebble

What a great name for a movie.

 

A modern remake of 1981’s antipodean adventure flick Goodbye Pork Pie (directed by Geoff Murphy, the father of Pork Pie’s Matt), Pork Pie has been renovated and updated to fit the times. Sleeker, bigger and faster, the movie takes us across the full breadth of New Zealand, north to south and with a ferry in-between.

 

There’s plenty of fun to be had here.

Unwilling to move on from his ex-fiancée, Jon (O’Gorman) decides it’s best that he gatecrashes a wedding in order to talk with his spurned love Susie (Prebble) in the desperate hope she’ll take him back. After his car dies a fiery death, he’s left no choice but to thumb a ride. When Luke (Rolleston) comes tearing around the corner in a stolen yellow Mini and manages to not run Jon over, he agrees to give the lonely hitchhiker a lift to the wedding. The two are near-opposites and feed each distorted facts about themselves on their uneasy drive. The dynamic changes further when animal rights activist Keira (Cummings) literally climbs into the journey, having chucked in her job at a fast food drive-thru and needing an escape.

 

Keira’s natural exuberance quickly gels with Luke’s stoicism and Jon’s chaotic mannerisms and the trio head south to the wedding and a warehouse rave. After Jon’s appearance doesn’t go down well with Susie, he’s out on his arse and she’s off home to Invercargill – leaving him no option but to reconnect with Luke and Keira at the all-nighter. Travelling to Wellington for an animal-rights protest, and having already escaped the clutches of the police force, the trio is pursued by the Noo Zild fuzz and miss the march, narrowly escaping by boarding a train (in the Mini...) and heading to Invercargill to reunite Jon and Susie. But not all goes to plan on the way as their jaunt captures the imaginations of the public, and the police further, with bumps all along the way.

 

From Auckland to Wellington and all the way to Invercargill, there’s flying coffins, bliss-breaking flatulence, dress-up time, train station chases, romantic start-ups and emotional put-downs - Pork Pie is a good fun, good time caper movie. Anchored by three strong performances, the narrative remains focused throughout, never straying into pure bedlam despite some high-octane car chases – there’s a soul to the movie that resonates around togetherness.

 

Fully recovered from his run-in at Ravenhill in The Battle of the Five Armies, Dean O’Gorman brings a shambolic swagger as Jon, looking every bit a golden-haired Tim Rogers. His comedic abilities allow his chemistry with Rolleston and Cummings to shimmer and he leads the movie with assurance. Rolleston contrasts well with a confident display as the independent tearaway with an unhappy past, and Cummings liveliness brings life to the dynamic and her plucky performance only enhances her growing résumé – and together, the pair share a bubbling chemistry that gives the movie a lot of its comedic moments. The characters each have their own identity that serves the story, each quirk (activism, blogging etc.) is there to further the story and doesn’t exist simply to ‘fit’ with the modern/millennial times.

 

With a cross-country movie comes plenty of driving scenes, and not content with simply being a buddy movie, Pork Pie utilises high-speed chases and getaway sequences galore as the trio thunder through New Zealand – giving the scenic landscapes even more cinematic exposure. The sequences are well shot and nicely choreographed, adding real zest and stakes to the story. The humour is well-placed and natural, only briefly deviating into fun slapstick – i.e. the coffin scene – but always feels in tone with the movie overall. There’s ample Kiwi slang to be found, so keep your ears ready.

 

The story flags slightly in the middle act, but it never wobbles and remains enjoyable even in its slower moments. Plus, that Mini remained bloody clean through all of the toils it’s put through. Through it all, they took that bloody car to Invercargill!

Pork Pie wraps up with a fitting and satisfying conclusion, though whilst we care about the end destination, the journey to reach it provides the movie's heart. A movie about a jilting fiancé, a Maori felon and a vegan activist hits the mark – who’d have thought it? But it works and Pork Pie is a great ride all the way through its ups and downs.

September 22nd 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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