(director: Toa Fraser; screenwriter: Glenn Standring; cinematographer: Leon Narbey; editor: Dan Kircher; music: Don McGlashan; cast: Te Kohe Tuhaka (Wirepa), James Rolleston (Hongi), Lawrence Makoare (The Warrior), Xavier Horan (Rangi), George Henare (Tane), Raukura Turei (Mehe), Rena Owen (Grandmother), Pana Hema-Taylor (Mana), Calvin Tuteao (Ka); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Matthew Metcalfe/Glenn Standring; Magnolia Pictures; 2014-New Zealand/UK-in Maori with English subtitles)

“Highly entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In the Toa Fraser (“Truth About Demons”/”Perfect Creature“) helmed and the Glenn Standring written exotic action pic, set in the Dead Lands of the Maori, in pre-colonial New Zealand, there’s a monster dwelling there, honor codes to uphold and fierce battle scenes. The time period is before the white settlers.

The 15-year-old unskilled warrior Hongi (James Rolleston) is accused by an evil rival tribe, led by the cunning Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka), of the desecration of the tribal burial grounds for leaving at the sacred site their dead family members above the ground. The innocent Hongi is spared a death sentence by the wily Wirepa. When Hongi’s family relaxes their village watch, thinking everything has been settled, Wirepa leads a surprise attack and wipes out Hongi’s entire tribe except for him. The surviving Hongi, as a matter of honoring his tribe’s traditions, vows revenge on the fleeing rival tribe. From the other world, his grandmother (Rena Owen) laughs at the moronic kid and his delusions.

To catch up with the evil tribe Hongi goes through the forbidden Dead Lands. The infamous Dead Lands, once belonged to a tribe that has disappeared, is run now by a vicious cannibal warrior and is inhabited by a monster. Hongi vows he will get the monster to help him get revenge.

The fable, filmed in the Maori language, is filled with fierce battle scenes common to the indigenous, westernized storytelling and is nobly acted by a mostly native cast. I found the coming-of-age action flick highly entertaining, even if it shuns history in favor of telling tall tales and keeping its brutality stylish.