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SMASH PALACE (director/writer: Roger Donaldson; screenwriters: Peter Hansard/Bruno Lawrence; cinematographer: Graeme Cowley; editor: Mike Horton; music: Sharon O’Neill; cast: Bruno Lawrence (Al Shaw), Anna Jemison (Jacqui Shaw), Greer Robson (Georgie Shaw), Keith Aberdein (Ray Foley), Sean Duffy (Frank), Lynne Robson (Linda), Desmond Kelly (Tiny); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Roger Donaldson; Atlantic Releasing; 1981-New Zealand)
It’s a film that artists make.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roger Donaldson(“The November Man”/”The Bank Job”/”The Recruit”) co-writes with Peter Hansard and star Bruno Lawrence this engrossing but downbeat character-based action drama about divorce when neither side is to blame. The writers handle a familiar melodramatic story about divorce by bringing to light complex motivations for going bonkers over a domestic crisis.

It was serious films like this one, with something worthwhile to say, that revived New Zealand’s international movie rep.

Bruno Lawrence is an ex-racing Grand Prix champ who retreats to the dreary sticks in his native N.Z. to take over his dad’s car-wrecking business. He cracks up when his bored cultured pregnant French wife Anna Jemison leaves him because she can’t stand his career move and thereby lives with his policeman best friend Keith Aberdein and their daughter Greer Robson. A pissed Bruno responds by kidnapping the 8-year-old and taking her on a grueling cross-country chase with the law in pursuit through bush territory.

It’s a lyrical pic that shocks the senses with mood swings of tranquility and violence. The pic has soul, visual beauty, a great performance from Lawrence, pain that registers on the screen and an intrinsic rhythm to hold things together. It’s a film that artists make.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”