The Dark Horse DVD Review

DVD Review by Jon E Clist

The Dark Horse

The Premise
The Dark Horse is an emotionally-charged and inspiring drama about a man who searches for the courage to lead, despite his own adversities – finding purpose and hope in passing on his gift to the children in his community. Once a heralded chess champion, Genesis has spent the last few years in and out of mental institutions, battling with severe bipolar disorder. After being released from the psychiatric ward for one more chance at life, he moves in with Ariki, his gang-patched and distant brother, and Ariki’s soon-to-be-patched teenage son, Mana.
The Review
It’s not hard to come to the realization that Cliff Curtis is a great actor. He moved us to hate him as Uncle Bully in Once Were Warriors and then in many other characters we have grown to love him. Add to that the variation of ethnicities that he has played over the years, whether a middle eastern sympathizer in Three Kings or a South American Drug Lord in Blow. What an amazing career he has had so far. I think for me I also love the fact that despite his international success he has still regularly come back to New Zealand to star in and support local cinema. Films such as River Queen and Whale Rider and now The Dark Horse.

Curtis has certainly shown great commitment to his role in this film, not only in the passion that he throws into his portrayal of Genesis but also the physicality of the character by putting on an estimated sixty pounds in weight. His attention to detail in his portrayal of someone suffering from severe mental illness is astounding to behold and is as enthralling as it is confronting. Yes the story revolves around him and yet even if the plot wasn’t focused on Genesis you would still be drawn to this character way above any others. It is not that any of the other actors in this film aren’t good, in fact they are all extremely great in bringing their own characters to life in a realistic and believable fashion, however this person that is Genesis is magnetic to watch.

It has been interesting to watch what could nearly be considered to be a creative stalling in James Rolleston’s acting career, especially when you consider the majority of his screen time in the past half a decade has been in Vodafone commercials. However I am so proud to see him back giving life to another great film script in a role that feels as though it has been written with him in mind.

This is based on a real life story and is so very captivating that it certainly proves that often the best stories are those that are born out of real experiences because those are the stories that are believable and therefore the ones that so fully draw us in to empathize and connect in a deeply moving manner.
The Verdict
A smashing script and outstanding performances from all star cast makes this the Kiwi film of the year. An absolute must-see!
The Trailer
The Info
DVD Releases: 10th December 2014
Rating: M – Contains Violence, offensive language & drug use
Duration: 125 minutes
Genre:  Drama True Story
Starring: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Miriama McDowell, Xavier Horan, Baz Te Hira, Wayne Hapi
Director: James Napier Robertson (I’m Not Harry Jenson)
The Extras
Initially an actor by trade, James Napier-Robertson landed leading roles in a number of local and international TV shows, before making a conscious move behind the camera in his early-twenties.
The World Premiere for The Dark Horse was at this years’ NZIFF.


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