As a film critic in New Zealand, there are few situations I dread as much as writing a review for a local film that isn't very good.
Whenever I approach a Kiwi film in a professional critical capacity, I feel an undeniable force driving me to be kind. It's an invisible force, but it definitely exists. Ask any local film critic.
I'm conscious of this force, but I do my best not to let it affect my written opinion of the film, which it should be pointed out at the end of the day is merely that - an opinion.
This force made itself known in a larger capacity than usual when I sat down to write my review of Sione's 2: Unfinished Business for the Herald on Sunday last week.
There is such extreme goodwill for the first film, the idea of ragging on the sequel felt positively unpatriotic.
I'm a big fan of everyone involved in the film, I love the idea of it, I love what it represents, and I dug the first one. Having grown up in the central Auckland suburbs and having attended the principally Polynesian high school St Pauls College in Ponsonby, I felt especially connected to these movies.
So I went in really wanting to like Sione's 2 ... but I did not. Do I think everyone who's interested should go and see the movie and judge for themselves? Absolutely. Do I also have a responsibility to be honest in my review? Heck yes.
The ethical quandaries faced by the film critic are neither plentiful nor significant, but this situation got me thinking about how I would define my function in this role.
Although the individual influence of the film critic has waned considerably in the past two decades (especially now that anybody with an internet connection could be classed as such), I would argue the exponential rise of movie marketing means they're more important than ever.
Critics place movies on a level playing field, separated from the commercial imperative driving most movies. We're there to offer an opinion, provoke discussion and hopefully assist potential viewers in making their decision about whether or not to see a movie.
I endeavour to judge every film on its own merits, to determine whether or not it succeeds in what it's attempting to do.
From my perspective, Sione's 2 (which isn't without merit) ultimately failed to live up to its own promise. And I felt a duty to report that in my review. I gave the film two and a half stars, which hopefully didn't stop anyone who read it from seeing the movie, but perhaps adjusted expectations.
After I submitted my review on Thursday morning (it was published in yesterday's Herald On Sunday) I noticed TimeOut's Russell Baillie also gave it 2.5 stars. Some reviewers have been kinder; others not so much. One major publication was conspicuously missing a Sione's 2 review...
There's some reassurance in not being alone in my opinion. I remember when I saw the 2008 Kiwi flick Second Hand Wedding, I thought it was so terrible I surely wouldn't be the only critic giving it a bad review. But I was, everyone else seemed to love it, and it was an actual hit at the local box office. So what do I know?
Do you think local critics should treat Kiwi films with kid gloves? Is it wrong to compare them with international films? What did YOU think of Sione's 2: Unfinished Business?
Check out the trailer for Sione's 2:
- Herald online