Another Kiwi gem

23:47, Sep 04 2014
Dark Horse
CHECKMATE: Cliff Curtis, left, and James Rolleston star in The Dark Horse, a bio-pic about a speed chess master who shares his talent with East Coast youth.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Dark Horse. Starring Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston; directed by James Napier Robertson

We're being spoilt with great New Zealand films this year and The Dark Horse is continuing the trend.

The Dark Horse is based on the life of Gisborne man Genesis Potini, who struggled with bi- polar disorder and found redemption through his talent for chess.

Cliff Curtis' transformative performance as Genesis was heartbreakingly good.

From the get-go we see him expertly get inside the head of a difficult character and portray a depth and pain in Genesis which the audience immediately connects with.

Dare I say, this is a career-defining moment for Curtis.


Genesis is on the verge of a breakdown and his one positive thing is the chess club he joins, The Eastern Knights, and the children he teaches to play.

Audiences will recognise the familiar face of James Rolleston, from Boy, who plays Genesis' nephew, Mana.

His character, the son of a gang member, will break your heart and Rolleston proves he isn't just a one-hit wonder. The kid can act.

The film is likely to draw comparisons to Once Were Warriors because of the parallels between a Maori family in low socio-economic lifestyle and brutal scenes throughout.

The characters in the film will hit close to home for many audiences.

Genesis and Mana are two. Ariki, Genesis' brother, played by first-time actor Wayne Hapi, the tough Gisborne gang member trying to push his 15-year-old son into the gang, is another.

The dynamic between these three characters is at points frightening and emotionally charged, making it all the more powerful. Genesis Potini's story is captured expertly by director James Napier Robertson.

So well, in fact, that at times you'll feel anxious because it feels like you are going through the dark moments that Genesis faces.

You'll go through a roller- coaster of emotions in this film so if you were thinking of taking someone to this on a first date - don't.

That is unless you're comfortable with them seeing you with tears streaming down your face.

You'll leave this film feeling like you have seen the world through a different pair of eyes.

The Dark Horse is intense and dark but also heart-warming.

It's a must watch of Kiwi cinema.

The Southland Times