Runtime: 104 minutes
Writer/Director: Tearepa Kahi
Actors: Cliff Curtis, Jay Ryan, Manu Bennett, Simone Kessell
By Joan Amenn
A thriller that reveals that police are corrupt and native peoples are being abused? Sounds like we have been here before and as sincere an effort as “Muru” (2022) is, it does not break out of old cliches. However, the performem takes on us a stunning journey across the countryside of New Zealand.
The film is carried by the very strong performance of Cliff Curtis (“Whale Rider” (2002)) as Sgt. “Taffy” Tawharau. As a member of the Maori community, Taffy is expected to be a school bus driver, elder care nurse and police detective. When a young member of the village has a run-in with the law, he finds himself getting pulled into a bigger investigation into potential domestic terrorism.
This all sounds intriguing but onscreen the intent and motivations of some characters seem muddy and this drags the story down. The young man, Rusty (Poroaki Merritt-McDonald) does not seem very sympathetic albeit he certainly would not be mistaken for a terrorist by any law officer who was in any way competent. The counter offensives of the non-native members of the police seem over the top while almost laughably inept at the same time.
This is all set against the backdrop of the actual police raids on the native peoples of New Zealand in 2000 and 2007. The film cites police violence going back as far as 1881, which is as sadly as unsurprising in this day and age as it is horrifying. “Muru” tries to pay tribute to those who have suffered by implying that their struggle continues but it might have done better to bring in more of the historical context to engage the audience’s interest rather than settling on a standard cop drama to bring their story to life.