Review: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999)

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999)

Directed by: Ian Mune | 108 minutes | drama | Actors: Temuera Morrison, Edna Stirling, Julian Arahanga, Nancy Brunning, Tahei Simpson, Rawiri Paratene, Rudolph Alford, Julian Arahanga, Rema Owen

More than four years after the New Zealand film ‘Once Were Warriors’ (1994), the sequel came. ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’ picks up where its predecessor left off. The film shows how things went on with the Heke family.

Like most sequels, this sequel is not as good as its predecessor. However, there is no question of a cheap way of making money because this second part was written by the same author. Alan Duff, who wrote the novel ‘Once Were Warriors’ was based, is also responsible for the story of this print. Duff took his time and that resulted in a span of four years between the successor and the original. Unfortunately, the sequel lacks the punch that made the first film so powerful.

The movie starts with Nig’s death. The eldest son of Jake Heke has fled his parental home and has become part of a youth gang. A gang war has cost him his life. His younger brother Sonny joins a friend and Nig’s girlfriend in search of revenge. By infiltrating a rival gang, the trio hopes to find justice through violence. The plan fails and slowly the three young people get involved in a hopeless situation in which aggression, abuse and disturbed relationships are the result. Desperate, they enlist Jake’s help. Jake, meanwhile, has built a new life with another woman, wandering aimlessly looking for booze and bar fights to pass the time. Slowly Heke realizes that his life is very empty and that he is doing something wrong. Strengthened by new friends and a new job, he will improve his life. Just then, his son calls out for help, for the trademark violent performances that Jake has just renounced.

Also ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’ is about violence. But not for ‘hidden’ violence such as domestic terror, gang wars are central to this drama. Director Ian Mune gives a realistic sketch of life in a gang, but the drama in the film is not as oppressive as in the print on which his film is a sequel. The subject has been done too often to stand out from the crowd, in short there are better films in this genre.

This is partly due to Duff’s story, but also to the interplay of the cast. The characters are not as captivating as in the predecessor. Furthermore, Mune has the bad luck that he has to introduce some new characters. That takes time and takes the momentum out of the picture. Also, the film must miss Rena Owen. The chemistry between her and Temuera Morrison was one of the strongest points of the first film. Unfortunately, Morrison himself also has too little input in the print. The focus in this film is clearly on the youth gang.
Unfortunately, the main characters are not developed as interestingly to keep the interest. In terms of new faces in the print, only the actress Nancy Brunning stands out. Her acting is genuine and convincing and her character is a well-developed character who gets caught between feelings of revenge and grief.

‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’ has become a nice film that has to do without the charm of the first film. The lack of an appealing cast of main characters and the lack of the ingredients that the predecessor had, Maori culture, prevent the print from achieving classic status.

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