This bounty hunter Western might be set in our very own late-colonial era with Ray Winstone pursuing Temuera Morrison across a mountainous wild frontier, but watching this plodding convoluted NZ-UK co-production, you can't help but be reminded of the adage that the past is a different country. One where no one had a map, compass or calendar.
Yes, it is picky to geographically fault a fictional film apparently set in post-Boer War 1903. But it's one which opens in a New Zealand city ringed by towering, snow-capped peaks but lapped by white-sand beaches where the local British army officer (Reeves), apparently in charge of everything, takes his tea.
And it's one which starts its chase on Auckland's west coast beaches, finds itself a valley or two later in hardly remote country near Queenstown, complete with easily navigable roads in back of shot.
True, those quirks might just jar with a particularly New Zealand suspension of disbelief. But jar they do.
Common sense could suggest it might be unlikely that Winstone's defeated Boer, Van Diemen, would be immigrating, complete with his gun collection, to a new life in New Zealand on the same ship bringing Kiwi troops home from their first foreign war.
So all the credulity strained, it's hard to be much engaged by the rest of it.
And that's despite Winstone's fine turn, actually managing to convince that despite Van Diemen's girth, his very big rifle and a leather coat possibly made out of rhino, he could actually make it up those hills and still have enough breath for those Afrikaans vowels.
Likewise, Morrison does his best with what he's given while playing Kereama, a whaler on shore leave framed for the murder of a British soldier. He decides to head for the hills and spot of spiritual enlightenment. Fresh off that boat and hired by the British, Van Diemen goes in pursuit.
The cat and mouse eventually come face to face and find they have common ground, both having been victims of British imperialism in their own way.
While the pair's enjoyable shared scenes stop the movie from being a total uphill slog, they can't save Tracker from its abundant flaws. Yes it has some nice hills and our scenery could sure do with the work. But frankly, there's better landscape cinematography on Country Calendar.
Cast: Ray Winstone, Temuera Morrison, Gareth Reeves
Director: Iain Sharp
Running time: 102 Minutes
Verdict: Colonial NZ western to go down in history, among other subjects.
- TimeOutBy Russell Baillie @RBaillieNZH Email Russell