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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 1:07:10)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 1 Theatrical trailer
  • 6 Cast/crew biographies - Temuera Morrison, Clint Eurera, Nancy Brunning, Rena Owen, Julian Arahanga, Ian Mune
  • 20 Photo gallery - Stills from the film's production
  • Animated menus
  • 1 Music video
  • 2 TV spot
  • 1 Awards/Nominations - What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It is a truism that a sequel never equals and, to a great extent, there has never been a truer statement, with only a handful of films that can be considered to have achieved the unenviable challenge of not only meeting the expectations of their sequels, but surpassing them. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II (1974) is unanimously agreed upon by critics and audiences alike to be one such example - vastly superior to its predecessor, managing to expand its scope and boundaries, yet being able to remain faithful to its roots; other noteworthy mentions are, of course, James Cameron’s frantic and typically audacious Aliens (1986), and Irvin Kershner’s The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - often cited as one of the greatest motion picture sequels ever made.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999), based on provocative New Zealand author Alan Duff’s novel of the same name, and the eagerly anticipated sequel to the 1994 international smash hit Once Were Warriors, is not of the same shockingly exhilarating calibre of its predecessor. Indeed, it would appear that What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? has not only been neglected a cinematic release in the United States, it seems that it has not - at this time of writing - even warranted distribution onto DVD within that region. Instead, it appears that it is pending a straight-to-video release, a policy which is usually reserved for titles that are either of a dubious nature or have a limited widespread appeal.

In the latter instance, such films gain a underground reputation and become destined for cult status. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? could, quite conceivably, turn out to be a cult classic in years to come - but as far as being a picture of great artistic merit, it sorely lacks the gut-wrenching intensity of its prequel. There are a number of reasons why What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’s dramatic elements fails - perhaps the foremost is the fact that Polygram Filmed Entertainment’s involvement in the screen project has wrenched the emotion out of any humanitarian aspects regarding the Maori culture’s plight, and, in stark contrast to the first film, imbued the sequel with ‘subtle’ Americanisms.

Also contributing to What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’s mediocre feel is the treatment of the story’s characters - Temuera Morrison’s Jake ‘the Muss’ and fellow Shortland Street regular Nancy Brunning’s gang moll, Tania, are wonderfully conceived, complicated, and multi-faceted creations, (at least, in Duff’s novel they are) fueled by their personal needs for redemption and vengeance. Although there can be no doubt as to the calibre of Morrison’s - or for that matter, Brunning’s - solid performances, it is difficult to accept their tragic circumstances, due to the distinct lack of credibility and the simplistic one-dimensional characterisation so evident in Duff’s limp screenplay.

Suffering from insufficient character development, episodic storytelling, and the filmmakers’ apparent eagerness to pepper this lacklustre effort with copious lashings of ultra-violence, gratuitous sex, and trivial dialogue ensures that, in the end, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? is not all that dissimilar from a formulaic B-grade action picture.

Consequently, we are left with a motion picture that is devoid of any real semblance of integrity; What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? comes across as a typical half-baked Hollywood film (albeit with a New Zealand director, Ian Mune) - shallow, predictable, and, in some instances, quite offensive to the intelligence of its demographic audience. Admittedly, there are some truly great scenes featured in this misguided sequel - such as when Jake sinks into an abyss of total despair and seems to perform an implied act of self-mutilation upon himself (the pain evident on Temuera Morrison’s face is palpable and, despite his character’s horrible temperament, one cannot help but feel sympathy for him) - but, together with Duff, the inept manner in which Mune treats the potentially powerhouse material ensures that they waste the film’s predominantly unknown, but immensely talented, cast.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, differs from Once Were Warriors in that, although both films deal with the theme of redemption and valour in the face of adversity, this sequel’s perspective has a concurrent focus on its three lead characters - as opposed to Lee Tamahori’s film, which featured Beth (Rena Owen) as its emotional axis.

Occurring five years after the tortuous events depicted in Once Were Warriors, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? is essentially the story of Jake ‘the Muss’ Heke (Temuera Morrison) and his unconquerable struggle to triumph over his inner demons - his penchant for alcohol and his volatile temper. After his separation from Beth, Jake is fast becoming a pariah of sorts, increasingly alienating the few remaining friends he has left because of his unpredictable outbursts, which is also producing an undercurrent of tension in his relationship with his new partner, Rita (Edna Stirling). Jake’s hostility, understandably, frightens her, and we soon tread down the familiar path as the hints of domestic violence erupt into a scene of shattering physical abuse.

Now a firm member of the Kaipatu Kaahu outfit in South Auckland, the eldest Heke son, Nig (Julian Arahanga), is killed by members of a rival gang in a nocturnal clash, made possible through an elaborate ruse coordinated by the Kaipatu Kaahu’s warlord, Grunt (Lawrence Makaore). Nig’s girlfriend, Tania Rogers (Nancy Brunning in the film’s most evocative role), is painfully aware of the deception that cumulated in the death of her loved one, and begins to plan her intentions of avenging him. Tania’s desire for retribution sees her linking up with Sonny, the second eldest Heke boy, who, incensed at the manner of his brother’s end and seeking revenge, attempts to join another clan of urban warriors, the Black Snakes - headed by the demonic and calculating Apeman (Pete Smith).

Infiltrating the Black Snakes’ ranks in an effort to influence Apeman to assassinate the leader of the Kaipatu Kaahu, Tania and Sonny’s rash actions initiate a heated street war between the two opposing gang factions, placing the vengeful couple in mortal danger. Spurned by the accusations that he is responsible for Nig’s murder and his deep-rooted need for redemption and reconciliation with Beth, who is now living in a middle-class suburb and married to a social welfare officer, Jake finds himself in the unenviable position of wanting to change his life by refraining from violence, yet discovering that the only means in which he can protect Sonny from a similar fate is through the use of his fists.

  Video
Contract

Reflecting the film’s more substantial budget, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’s 1.85:1 non-anamorphic screen presentation is, of course, far superior to that of Once Were Warriors. Black levels are mostly high and solid; however, they seem opaque in a few instances. Detail is sharp, and provides good definition. But, where the transfer excels is in its saturation - or, rather, lack of it - doing full justice to the stark contrasts of cinematographer Allen Guilford’s colour palette. The film has a strikingly modern look to it, with bleached urban scenes possessing pitch blacks which clash with harsh whites, enhancing its seediness to no end; however, it can also produce relatively vibrant textures when needed - as evident with Nig’s funeral ceremony in Chapter 5.

Flesh tones are stunningly rendered, and there is no evidence of oversaturation or bleeding through the presentation. Although there are no MPEG artefacts, minute film artefacts - consisting mostly of small white dots - are detectable, but they do not warrant any concern. Likewise the minor film grain which is present throughout the motion picture’s duration - it is somewhat predominant in certain scenes, especially those of a nocturnal nature - is not important and poses no detrimental impact on the viewing experience. The transfer’s greatest problem, though, lies in its amount of discernible aliasing - often seen to be affecting urban and industrial structures, as well as car trimmings, etc. This is not to suggest that these instances are catastrophically bad - only that, in some cases, they are very noticeable.

The layer transition occurs in the middle of Chapter 14 at 1:07:10 in between scenes, and is beautifully positioned; although noticeable, disruption to the narrative flow is non-existent.

  Audio
Contract

Of the two audio selections available on this disc, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is vastly superior to the Dolby Digital 2.0, displaying exceptional strength and dynamic range. Although the bulk of this presentation may at first seem gravitated toward the front soundstage, it soon becomes apparent there is almost constant support from the rear surrounds, cumulating in a home theatre experience that is truly immersive and alternates between providing subtle nuance to mind-numbing aural assaults. A great example of the former can be found at 19:10 in Chapter 6 as Jake arrives home to the sound of Jamaican reggae bellowing from within his house; in the background, secretively hidden amongst the din, are the soft yelps of a distant canine.

For a dramatic case of the former, look no further than the very start of Chapter 2, featuring the ear-piercing bellow of a screaming train - it is an event that shatters not only the drunken tranquillity of a crowded bar scene seen just moments before, but announces the arrival of a practically never-ending rear reinforcement that does not cease until the film’s conclusion. Dialogue, as well as sound, is clean and crisp, proving to be the strongest aspect of this DVD’s presentation. However, be warned: the subwoofer really benefits from the 5.1 mix, exhibiting very deep resonance that this reviewer found so heavy, it became necessary to adjust the LFE channel’s volume level to prevent a potential landslide; the antagonising rumble of a V8 engine in Chapter 2 and the pistol shot in Chapter 18 are particularly vicious in their intensity.

  Extras
Contract

Trailer: Presented in a screen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, this promo trailer (which is an oddity as, at this time of writing, it seems that the film has not been released in US theatres) runs for 1 minute and 49 seconds.

The Making Of....: With the exception of its preceding theatrical trailer (which is featured in a screen aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1), this featurette is presented in a non-anamorphic 1.33:1 screen format, and is not so much a behind-the-scenes documentary, but an insidious piece of Hollywood-inspired propaganda, citing how this sequel is allegedly superior to the original. Despite the informative content regarding the picture’s production and containing conversations with What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’s cast and crew, The Making Of... is also irritating in its constant over-glorification of a film that does not warrant much interest within its own right, let alone as a follow-up to one of the greatest independent films of recent times.

A bitter issue of contention that this reviewer has about the overtly pompous, even arrogant, comments permeating this featurette can best be illustrated in the insipid - indeed, flagrantly stupid - off-the-cuff remarks by What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’s production designer Brett Schwieters. Regarding the film’s supposed street ‘realism,’ he remarks: “None of us wanted to go down that Versace path... designer gang path...again. So it’s a pretty simple affair. We decided to go more naturalistic, more gritty, more grungy... more real.” Pity that not as much attention was paid to either the picture’s fractured story-line or its lame characterisation, making it all the more apparent that the production team not only suffers from delusions of grandeur, but - to use an American vernacularism - they do not know shit from Shinola.

Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, this mini-documentary has a running length of 21 minutes and 49 seconds.

Biographies: This section features six brief, and rather abrupt, talent profiles on the film’s principle leads - Temuera Morrison, Clint Eurera, Nancy Brunning, Rena Owen, Julian Arahanga - and director, Ian Mune; each segment contains only the most cursory biographical and filmographical information.

Music Video: Presented in a non-anamorphic screen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and featured in Dolby Digital 2.0, this unnamed and uncredited promo clip contains a smooth hip-hop beat crossed with Polynesian dub - if a comparison is to be made, it seems reminiscent of PM Dawn’s earliest recordings. Running for 3 minutes and 36 seconds, the borders of the letterboxed screen are decorated with Maori-inspired motifs.

Photo Gallery: Merely a collection of colour and black-and-white promotional stills from the film itself.

TV Ads: There are two television spots to sample here. Each is featured in a non-anamorphic 1.66:1 screen format, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and possessing a length of 32 seconds, and are the advertisements that were seen on Australian television.

  Overall  
Contract

It is difficult not to compare What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? with Lee Tamahori’s searing and profoundly distressing account of the impoverished and disadvantaged Heke family in Once Were Warriors, which became the biggest-grossing film in New Zealand history to date, and the recipient of numerous accolades from the international film community. Benefiting from an almost exclusive Maori cast exhibiting astonishingly natural acting ability (Morrison’s mesmerising performance was likened to that of Marlon Brando’s in On the Waterfront), a talented New Zealand production crew and director who each shared a close affiliation with their project’s subject matter - as well as adopting a take-no-prisoners approach with its unflinching depictions of violence and socio-political ideals - Once Were Warriors is, and proved to be, unsurpassable in its emotional and artistic intensity.

In a cunning piece of marketing, Universal have bundled What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? in with Magna Pacific’s Once Were Warriors to form a twin disc box set; therefore, it renders useless my recommendation to avoid this title - not so much on the grounds of its transfer, but on the motion picture itself. To use another truism: “The book was infinitely superior to the film.”


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      And I quote...
    "Ample proof, if needed, that a sequel does not necessarily equal... Few moments of brilliance cannot save the film’s lack of direction or characterisation... "
    - Shaun Bennett
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic SC-HT80
    • TV:
          Panasonic TX-43P15 109cm Rear Projection
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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