Labour of love fails to find its sea legs

Directed by Craig Newland
105 mins


Radio Hauraki is now just another (admittedly superior) commercial rock radio station, but its beginnings were a tribute to sheer bloody-mindedness.

In the late 1960s, a team of ragbag rock'n'roll lovers, denied a licence by an overly officious New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, established a pirate radio station on a rickety boat - technically just outside international waters.

They eventually got their licence, but not before shaking up the establishment.

It's a story that has everything from high seas drama to wild rock music, but it's one that needs a decent budget, and some flair to truly honour.

Craig Newland's (fictionalised) tale of the station's beginnings, 3 Mile Limit, uses some dramatic licence - these Hauraki pirates actually broadcast live from their ship, rather than transmit pre- recorded shows - and changes the names of the key players, but the spirit of the story remains the same.

You can't fault the verve of the main cast, particularly Matt Whelan as "Richard Davis", the man who dreams of bringing youth culture to the country's airwaves, and David Aston as the stuffed-shirt Broadcast Minister who repels his efforts.

Yet there is one key component missing: the actual music. 3 Mile Limit constantly rails about the fact that before Radio Hauraki, you could not hear the Beatles, the Who or the Rolling Stones on New Zealand radio.

You can't hear them in this film either.

Instead, we get a selection of early New Zealand pop (such as Ray Columbus & the Invaders and the Chicks). Presumably, this is because of licensing costs, but it dulls the film's impact.

Newland's film is better when dealing with the ways the Hauraki crew evaded authorities, from stealing equipment from NZBC's Broadcasting House to dropping off materials to the shipping crew via a seaplane.

Meanwhile, the scenes of the radio crew in the ship look genuinely fraught and claustrophobic.

There is even something admirable about the way the film struggles against its limitations, and there's good work from the support cast (including current Hauraki DJ Mikey Havoc as a loan shark).

But it lacks a proper larrikin spirit.

It's almost too earnest about its cause, and some of the dialogue is decidedly leaky. 3 Mile Limit is a labour of love, but it needed an extra coat of paint to be properly seaworthy.

A muted tribute.

The Timaru Herald