By Marty Mulrooney
Tracker is a 2010 British/New Zealand action-thriller directed by British film and television director Ian Sharp. Set in 1903 New Zealand, Tracker stars Ray Winstone as Arajan van Diemen, an Afrikaner veteran of the Boer War and master tracker, who is offered a bounty to capture Kereama (Temuera Morrison), a Māori seafarer accused of killing a British soldier. Tracker was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment.
Tracker never looks anything less than gorgeous from beginning to end. Shot on location in New Zealand, the breathtaking scenery and landscapes prove spellbinding from the opening shot. Van Diemen (Ray Winstone) a guerrilla survivor of the South African Boer War, lands in colonial New Zealand at the beginning of the film and it isn’t long before he has drawn some unwanted attention to himself.
Meanwhile, a Maori seafarer named Kereama (Morrison) is shown in a barn with a female lover. When some drunken British soldiers come across them, they are consumed with rage and attack him. In the ensuing struggle, one of the soldiers mistakenly kills his fellow soldier. Panicked, they blame Kereama for the murder and he flees into the night, terrified.
The main plot of the film revolves around Arajan van Diemen, the master tracker who is offered a considerable reward to track down and return Kereama to the British. Soon both men are playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse in the wilderness, fighting against each other even as they reluctantly develop a mutual respect. When Arajan finally discovers Kereama’s innocence, the plot thickens and he must decide whether to uphold his deal with the British – who he seemingly hates – or help a complete stranger.
The acting from Ray Winstone in particular is superb. His character here offers a surprising contrast to the roles he is usually known for; van Diemen is a softly spoken, haunted man, well educated yet extremely dangerous. Winstone nails the South African accent perfectly, allowing his performance to ring true and the focus to remain squarely on his character. He has some good chemistry with co-star Temuera Morrison too, although Kereama is sadly the weaker of the two roles. Kereama’s embracement of the Māori traditions later on feels quite forced and Morrison’s acting never quite matches Winstone’s understated performance.
At 97 minutes Tracker isn’t a particularly long film and it does manage to engage the viewer throughout. However, it can often feel predictable – you already know from the outset that a friendship between van Diemen and Kereama will develop – and there are no real surprises. The chemistry between the two main actors does offer some surprisingly subtle comedy that works rather well, however the storyline isn’t particularly fresh or engaging and the film suffers as a result.
Tracker is certainly a good film, but unfortunately it is far too generic and predictable to ever become a truly great one. However, the breathtaking cinematography, a strong musical score and a terrific central performance from Ray Winstone certainly help sweeten the deal. The ending is also superb, offering a unforeseen twist that almost belongs to a much more adventurous, daring film. Beautiful then, but beauty only gets you so far…
7 OUT OF 10
AMO’s review copy of Tracker was provided on Blu-ray by Organic Marketing. Special features include: Audio Commentary, The Making of Tracker, Music Score, UK Exclusive Trailer.
Tracker is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.