Coming on like a cross between Apocalypto and the Ong Bak sequels (don't let that put you off), The Dead Lands is a gritty Maori thriller from Toa Fraser. Set in a pre-colonial New Zealand, James Rollerston (Hongi) introduces himself to the world in blistering fashion, alongside Lawrence Makoare, who you may recognise from The Lord of the Rings saga. Make no mistake about it though, Makoare is the star of this movie; the films positively bleeds menace every time he steps on screen. His is an electrifying presence and The Dead Lands come alive whenever he's in action.
Besides lush cinematography, bruising action and strong lead performances, The Dead Lands has, at its heart, an unexpectedly moving storyline - a very human coming of age drama with breathless action thrown in for good measure. The pace is leisurely in the first act, deliberately so, but all hell breaks loose at the halfway mark as The Dead Lands delivers on its promise of bloodthirsty action and intensity. Both Fraser and Rollerston have promising careers ahead of them but its Lawrence Makoare who leaves the lasting impression - bone mere optional.