A "breathtaking" performance by Kiwi actor Cliff Curtis in award-winning chess film The Dark Horse is being praised for a second time.

Released in New Zealand in 2014, the film about bipolar chess player Genesis Potini swept the NZ Film Awards, winning best picture, director and screenplay, as well as best actor for Cliff Curtis and best supporting actor for James Rolleston.

The Dark Horse is a true story based on the life of Genesis Potini, a wildly charismatic, bipolar-suffering former chess champion. It stars Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston, and opens in New Zealand cinemas on July 31. Also appearing at the International Film Festival.

Curtis, whose American profile is on the rise thanks to his lead role in The Walking Dead spin-off Fear The Walking Dead, is receiving rave reviews all over again.

That's because the film is only just now getting a limited released in American theatres.


On review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, The Dark Horse has a perfect 100 per cent score with 28 glowing reviews.

Variety said: "The Dark Horse is as good a title as any for a film that takes an overplayed genre - the inspirational mentor story - and still manages to surprise."

The Scotsman said: "The film explores the damaging, uber-masculine gang culture that exists on the fringes of Maori culture, using chess as a simple but effective metaphor for the struggles Potini and his young charges face in the everyday battlefield of life."

"The finest movie ever made about the game of chess as well as a deeply perceptive take on the brutal conditions indigenous peoples face in New Zealand," wrote reviewer Louis Proyect.

The Radio Times said: "Kiwi star Cliff Curtis makes a triumphant return to his homeland with this multi-award-winning true story after Whale Rider propelled him to a career in Hollywood in 2002."

The Observer called Curtis' performance "breathtaking ... note perfect in every gesture, mesmerising in its conviction".

13 Dec, 2014 7:22am
2 minutes to read

Curtis can next be seen in season two of Fear the Walking Dead, which screens on SoHo from April 11.

- nzherald.co.nz