A trio of young Kiwis with nothing to lose drive a hot car the length of New Zealand and become folk heroes along the way in this sleek, kinetic and eye-catching retooling of the 1981 film that slapped the word “Goodbye” at the beginning and put the country on the map. Car chase films play everywhere, but the added bonus of natural and authentic chemistry between the two male leads and skilful, well-blocked stunt work ensures this an entrée into international markets. Hello, Pork Pie.
After fleeing his own wedding, blocked novelist Jon (Dean O’Gorman), on his way to confront his ex Suzie (Antonia Prebble) at another set of nuptials, is nearly run over by Luke (James Rolleston), himself on the lam from vengeful thugs in a stolen Mini Cooper S that’s either apricot or yellow, depending on the light.
They get an appetite for burgers after eluding a hapless traffic cop, and acquire vegetarian activist Keira (Ashleigh Cummings, so good in the recent Australian thriller Hounds of Love) when the clerk wriggles out the drive-thru window literally into their laps.
At that point it’s off to the races, as they elude capture on the streets of Wellington (a clever recreation of the original’s most memorable set piece) and head south towards Invercargill. Along the way Keira plugs them in to social media and the three become increasingly less reluctant folk heroes cheered on by the populace.
The story has been cleverly updated by writer/director Matt Murphy, son of the original film’s director Geoff (who crewed on the original as a lad). Though the new trio don’t smoke as much dope as first film’s protagonists, Murphy the younger retains an undeniable stoner vibe. This is thanks in large part to the non-sequitur-strewn banter of the leads. Crucially, the casual misogyny of the 1981 release has been replaced by an unforced social conscience, and Murphy even takes the time to provide a quick backstory to both the title and their outlaw soubriquet of the “Blondini Gang.”
The two male leads have a tangible chemistry as newly-minted best mates; O’Gorman’s comic timing is expressive without becoming self-conscious, and Rolleston’s more stoic demeanor makes him a natural wheel-man (like all good car chase movies, editor Jonno Woodford-Robinson edits in lots of stick shift and footwork action). Cummings brings a spunky confidence to her conflicted fast food worker.
The film opened in its home country nearly 36 years to the day after the original to decent business, and rolls out in Australia March 9. Not accidentally, it is also a widescreen advertisement for both the automobile and the country’s spectacular scenery.
Originally published in Variety International.