Think of the worst things you can do with a claw hammer.
It's not pretty.
But it's what Damage, whose journey from impoverished, violent family home to abusive state care to brutal gang enforcer is the centre of new Kiwi film Savage, will do to stay in the only place he thinks he belongs.
Until, one day, he decides he doesn't.
It's then the unhappy Damage, whose facial gang tattoos quickly lose their power on the increasingly sad canvas that carries them, finds the catharsis he's wanted all along.
Sam Kelly, who wrote and directed Savage - which premieres in cinemas nationwide on September 10 - knows a bit about catharsis.
The 39-year-old first time feature film maker's read ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle's teachings on storytelling, about how we empathise with characters suffering injustice and find ourselves wanting what the character wants, and fearing, like the character, it won't happen.
"Catharsis allows you the emotional release from that fear, so it was important for me because Damage had been through a lot, and what he really wanted was connection and belonging," Kelly says.
"That might be something people in the audience can connect to, wanting to connect with someone else, or feeling like you want to belong somewhere, and not being able to."
The writings of one of history's most influential thinkers have their place. But reading isn't living.
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Kelly didn't grow up in a violent home, he wasn't sent to a boys' home and he never joined a gang.
But he's seen what happens when inhumanity is the fuel for mindless brutality.
A senseless killing
It was just over two weeks before Christmas in 2007 when Fitzgerald Risati, a "lovely, lovely kid" Kelly had directed in a school play, and who was also a family friend, was murdered while out celebrating his 24th birthday.
A court would later hear 32-year-old Mongrel Mob member Charlie Karaka was seeking revenge over a stolen patch when he stabbed Risati in the heart, and that the younger man, an IHC caregiver, was the victim of mistaken identity.
Karaka was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 12 years.
Whitby-raised and Porirua-educated Kelly had grown up giving gang members a wide berth.
But there was no long way around the impact of Risati's murder.
"It was this rubbing up of the gang world against my world for the first time. When this other world punctuates your own, that led to a lot of emotions for me - anger, and just so many questions. I wanted to know, 'Why do young men join gangs?'
"I don't like the idea of judging other people, and that's what I found myself doing. I wanted to move to a place of understanding."
Understanding began as he researched, wrote and directed his 2012 short film Lambs, a New Zealand International Film Festival winner, about a 14-year-old Cannons Creek boy forced to choose between staying in his abusive home to protect his younger siblings or leaving to start a new life of his own.
That work led him to learn more about adult gangs, and the power of the patch Karaka and others have killed for, culminating in the writing and making of Savage.
This was his catharsis.
"I wanted to understand why young boys and men were joining gangs and the more I understood these reasons, which were complex, the more compassion I had.
"If that's a result from the film, that the people who don't know much about gang members are able to see a little bit more about why these young guys are pushed and pulled into gangs, that would be great."
'You don't meet gang members who come from middle class families'
There are more than 7000 gang members in New Zealand , with numbers rising by 50 per cent in the three years to December, according to police data.
The Mongrel Mob is still by far the largest, with 2548 members, followed by Black Power's 1590 and the Head Hunters 441, but new Kiwi chapters of Australian gangs - formed by deported members - have sparked fears of turf wars and more sophisticated criminal operations, because of the Aussie imports' transnational organised crime links and trade craft know-how.
They mightn't share colours, but they share experiences that led them to join or form a gang, experts say.
It's a journey shown in Savage by Damage and his boys' home room-mate Moses, who later finds his place and power as the ruthless president of the street gang the pair and a few others form and name the Savages.
After being sent to borstal [youth detention centre] in the mid-1960s for stealing food for his poverty-stricken family, Damage - then known as Danny - is physically and sexually abused by those charged with his care, and told his family don't want him back.
Later living on the streets he briefly reconnects with a brother, but the pair are in rival gangs, and Damage eventually chooses his gang family, continuing a life of crime and hardship.
Damage is fictional, but the experiences that precede and then entrap him in gang life are "lots of stolen stories", Kelly says.
"I just spent a lot of time researching that world, everything I could get my hands on and talking to lots of people."
It's a well-worn path from dysfunctional homes and care environments to gangs, University of Canterbury director of criminal justice Dr Jarrod Gilbert, whose formal field research into gangs stretches more than a decade, says.
"You don't meet gang members who come from middle class families, who've had a good education and a clean upbringing. It just doesn't happen.
"The back stories of gang members tend to be horrific involving severe violence, terrible family dysfunction and often sexual violence. The men that join gangs, and certainly the ones who stay in, tend to be fairly damaged individuals."
Savage's Damage is deliberately Pākehā, because he thought telling the story from a Pākehā perspective would be "a more unique place to come from creatively" and have more integrity, as it was his own ethnicity, Kelly says.
But the fictional Savages' members are also deliberately ethnically diverse, he says.
"People do just immediately think of gangs as a Māori problem and that's not only wrong, but unfair. Gangs were originally, in the 50s, Pākehā. All the bikie gangs. Then, even street gangs - the Mongrel Mob was started by Pākehā.
"That's something a lot of New Zealanders don't know."
Not just a police problem
The Mongrel Mob take pride in the fact "mongrels take anybody", but the gang is overwhelmingly Māori, and gangs generally are disproportionately dominated by Māori, Gilbert says.
Māori aren't more inclined to join gangs, they're just more likely to live in communities where gang problems occur, the author of Patched: A History of Gang Life in New Zealand, says.
"We often tend to see these things as Māori issues, and the sad fact is Māori are at the heart of these issues … [but] it's an issue of proximity not ethnicity."
The themes that drove gang formation and growth decades ago are the same, but the gang scene, like society, has changed.
In the 1970s the issue of dysfunction was the urban drift of Māori moving to cities in greater numbers and traditional authority breaking down.
Today the problems are inter-generational welfare communities the economy, whether well or ill, "just no longer touches".
Gang members, socialised with violence from "the earliest days of their tiny little existences", are often bemused outsiders see the violence they engage in as repugnant, Gilbert says.
A lack of appropriate intervention means those behaviours are then simply passed down through the generations.
That needs to change, but won't if Kiwis keep saying gangs are solely a problem for police to solve or if "firebrand politicians" keep saying we need to "crack down on gangs", he says.
It's not about excusing crime, but understanding criminal behaviour, so we can address it, he says.
"How we'll tackle it is how we tackle complex problems generally - with sophisticated evidence-led solutions. [But] you just don't hear that type of speaking when it comes to combating gangs."
Kelly's work, showing us a world so many prefer to ignore, matters.
"When we just say, 'Well, let's make life tough for these buggers', well, nothing we can do will be any tougher than what they've already had.
"Unless we view what's behind the gangs then we'll never really get on top of them."
Gang member sees sexual abuser's face "in every fight he's in"
Ask Keith Wiffin what's behind gangs and you get a pretty clear answer - early years in violent, abusive and dangerous environments.
For too many that environment was state care, the former Epuni Boys' Home resident and longtime champion for the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, says.
"These people were in state care, to be cared for and nurtured and they were seriously abused and they're hurt, angry, and disenfranchised by their families and by our state.
"There's not one single gang member in this country who was born with a patch on his back. Gang members are made, they're not born."
It could've been Wiffin, too.
He was sent to Epuni aged 10 in 1970 after his father died, leaving a financially struggling family and a grieving son suffering minor behavioural problems relating to his loss.
"My mother in good faith signed the document which made me a state ward, thinking I'd be looked after and cared for, which was the exact opposite of what happened, like thousands of others."
Assaulted by another boy in the van taking him to Epuni, violence which then continued from both peers and caregivers at the home, Wiffin quickly learned to always keep his guard up.
One staff member had a reputation for hitting kids around the head with a clipboard while they queued for dinner. The worst physical abuse Wiffin saw was when another staff member used a wire brush to scrape a tattoo off a boy's hand.
"You never, ever relaxed. You were always watching your back."
A staff member also repeatedly sexually abused Wiffin, and many others, crimes for some of whom he was later convicted.
Wiffin's abuser is now dead, but the legacy of his actions live on - a fellow victim, now a gang member, told Wiffin he sees the man's face in every fight he's in.
"It stays with you for your entire life."
The Wellington cleaning contractor didn't follow his peers into gangs, in part because of his small size and because he knew life with a patch would likely mean time behind bars.
But the opportunity was there.
Wiffin once witnessed a public meeting for a new chapter of Black Power, recognising almost half the 15 young men present as former Epuni boys.
And aged 16, the Mongrel Mob offered him membership based solely on his two, roughly one year total, stints at the Lower Hutt-based boys' home, Wiffin says.
While he turned the gang down, the offer wasn't without temptation.
Someone wanted him.
"Gangs were the only organisations at times that reached out and showed any compassion for people that came out of state care, and the only ones that actually accepted them.
"And that's an absolute indictment on the state who, in my opinion, largely abandoned people."
Watch first, judge later
Wiffin doesn't sanitise his experiences to make others comfortable, and it's something Kelly didn't want to do either, in his fictional telling of the experiences of so many.
He expects Savage's audiences to feel uncomfortable, much as many did quarter of a century ago when Once Were Warriors introduced a shocked middle New Zealand to the underbelly of its own society.
And yet Savage could've been even more confronting.
Some of those he spoke to shared "much, much worse" experiences in their most vulnerable years, with one telling Kelly his childhood abuse included being chained like a dog outside the family home.
"I feel like the film could've been much more ruthless, and I wonder what that kind of film would've been like. It probably would struggle to connect in with audiences because of that rawness, maybe? I don't know."
The film's length and the decades of story it covers meant moving quickly, and he'd like to have been able to delve deeper into the different experiences and stages of Damage's life.
The storyline ends in the late 1980s, before some gangs - such as the Waikato Mongrel Mob chapter - began "pro-whanau" social movements.
Kelly came across examples of those movements, which police have been sceptical of, while researching Savage.
He's not sure if they're legitimate or not, or that it makes much difference anyway.
"People are going to dislike you if you're a gang member no matter what. It seems like a lot of effort to go to change the minds of people whose minds aren't going to be changed anyway."
But he never wanted his film to romanticise gang life.
He just wants people to understand how Danny became Damage, as he now understands the journey of others who've travelled, and still travel, the same path.
"My one hope is that people watch the film before judging."