We love action comedies in New Zealand, but we don't make a heck of a lot of them. Most came out in the 1980s, truly the action-comedies golden age.
A clear affection for the genre drives The Legend of Baron To'a, and can also be found in these five Kiwi films.
Goodbye Pork Pie (1980)
The late Geoff Murphy's beloved Kiwi classic follows the lovelorn John (Tony Barry) and clod-in-a-cap Gerry (Kelly Johnson) as they race down the country in a stolen yellow Mini on a mission to reunite John with his ex in Invercargill. A strong larrakin vibe permeates, complete with dangerous driving, dodgy sex puns ("Is that cop pulling out?" etc) and Bruno Lawrence as a Wellington weed hook-up. Remade in 2017 by Matt Murphy, Geoff's son.
Shaker Run (1985)
Imported leads Cliff Robertson (Uncle Ben in the first Spider-Man film) and Leif Garrett (a former teen idol who became better known for his drug problems), an odd pairing truly worthy of one of the less discerning Telethons, play an American stunt driver and his mechanic, who get caught up in a bioweapon conspiracy while touring the South Island in a pink Trans Am named Shaker. Kiwi acting legend Lisa Harrow classes things up as a scientist. Try to remember: in the 1980s, some kind of flashy car justified a lot.
Never Say Die (1988)
A spry Temuera Morrison teams with Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop) to play a couple on the run from both the cops and hired killers in Geoff Murphy's spiritual sequel to Goodbye Pork Pie. The action is bigger, and the dodgy sex puns are back, only now they're visual (just as Tem and Lisa are about to get down to business, we pointedly cut to a rifle being unsheathed). Probably the closest thing to an American-style action movie ever produced in New Zealand. Features a magnificent cameo from the late, great John Clarke, who is hilarious as a fast-talking car salesman.
A noble Kiwi attempt to replicate the economical "lad crime" model that became popular following the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), this stars Paolo Rotond (The Ugly), Scott Wills (Perfect Creature) and Robbie Magasiva (Sione's Wedding) as three Wellington pals who get in over their heads when they enter an underground pool tournament. Only in a New Zealand film does a criminal enforcer (played by Outrageous Fortune's Kirk Torrance) drop you off at the hospital after breaking your fingers.
Take Home Pay (2019)
Casually prolific Samoan Kiwi writer/director Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa's third feature (following 2016's Three Wise Cousins and 2018's Hibiscus & Ruthless) sees Auckland private investigator Bob Titilo (Tofiga Fepulea'i from The Laughing Samoans comedy duo) team up with a seasonal worker from Samoa named Alama (Vito Vito) to track down the latter's brother Popo (Ronnie Taulafo) after he absconds with their Northland fruit-picking earnings. The action is more foot chases and lima tau (a Samoan martial art) than guns blazing, and the comedy element is strong, demonstrating, as The Legend of Baron To'a does, that New Zealand's Pacific Island ties align well with the action-comedy genre.