If you’re seeking some flash as all-out action-comedy, that is all about the homegrown Kiwi flavour then The Legend of Baron To’a is the film you need in your life right now! And this one delivers all of the fun of a crazy night out at the wrestling in addition to a sizeable serving of heart.
A Tongan-New Zealand entrepreneur returns to his old neighbourhood and inadvertently causes the theft of his late father’s valued pro wrestling title belt. Failing to retrieve it, his only choice is to embrace his father’s legacy.
New Zealander Kiel McNaughton makes his directorial debut here with The Legend of Baron To’a, and his focus on crafting a film that delivers plenty of action, along with a narrative that touches on Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth and charts the journey home of a long lost son as he reconciles with the spirit and legacy of his father. Local audiences will be in heaven with this quintessential Kiwi film, that delivers the feel-good fun that Aoteora cinema has come to imbue, along with also providing audiences with a serious smackdown volt of energy. McNaughton’s debut film is both a full-on rush of action and a heart moving family drama, and those lucky enough to witness it will experience the full emotional palette that is a strong part of any rewarding piece of cinema. It’s obvious that The Legend of Baron To’a was a passion project of great importance for McNaughton and it’s this passion that shines through on the big screen.
Taking on the lead role of ‘the face’ in The Legend of Baron To’a is Uli Latukefu as Fritz, a young Tongan-New Zealander who has spent many years away from his homeland, pursuing an all together different type of life and who upon his return home comes face to face with his future and culture. Latukefu is 6’6 of twisted steel and sex appeal and he certainly cuts a heroic figure in the part of Fritz. Pulled into the growing tension of a block that’s about to explode he becomes a Rocky Balboa figure in his quest to rise to the occasion and stand-up to a host of bag guy heels who threaten everything that is good in his neighbourhood. The Legend of Baron To’a is a terrific debut for Latukefu and he makes a definite impact on the audience with a committed performance and I firmly believe we’ll see a lot more of this leading man down the road.
Providing a spirit for Latukefu’s Fritz to follow is veteran Kiwi actor John Tui who stars as the titular Baron To’a, the greatest pound-for-pound wrestler New Zealand has ever produced and who is a moral centre for the community and his son to follow. Tui has a terrific charisma that he displays as Baron To’a, and he proves himself to be a capable father and protector of his community. The Baron has a strong centre for what is right and does everything in his power to set the example for Fritz to follow and Tui’s commitment to the character and what he represents is powerful. In the film’s most moving scene where Fritz and the Baron come face-to-face, Tui’s command of this narrative shines through and he leaves an incredible character for others to aspire to be like.
While this character narrative of the relationship between a father and son is integral to the success of The Legend of Baron To’a, we must also not forget that this is a film heavy on the wrestling. AND IT DELIVERS! Channelling both a love for WWE, along with a love for the staples of the classic wrestling series On The Mat, The Legend of Baron To’a delivers all the smackdown and there’s some serious heavy-hitting on display. From an assortment of jabs and roundhouse kicks to massive body slams and the always impressive piledriver, The Legend of Baron To’a cranks up the action and wrestling fans will dig whats on offer. Add in the sweet tunes of local artists such as SWIDT and Church & AP and you’ve got a great mixture of fun going on!
The Legend of Baron To’a is a great new addition to the New Zealand cinema scene and audiences will find themselves completely moved thanks to a solid narrative and characters. This film is a credit to the passion of those artists who brought it to life, and it’s a film that Kiwi audiences can truly cherish.
Image: MadMan Films