What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Review

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? is the sequel to Once Were Warriors, and is based on Alan Duff’s follow-up to his own original novel. This time, Duff wrote the screenplay as well. If you haven’t seen Warriors, you should certainly do so in any case, and certainly before you watch Broken Hearted. The following paragraph of plot summary contains spoilers for the earlier film.

Five years after the events of Once Were Warriors, Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison) is living apart from his family, drinking and fighting every night in McClutchy’s Bar. Meanwhile, his son Nig (Julian Arahanga) is killed in a gang fight. Jake attends the funeral and has a confrontation with his resentful son Sonny (Clint Eruera). Broken Hearted follows two plot threads, which come together at the end. Sonny is drawn into the violence of street gangs, while Jake has to face up to his responsibilities as a father. But is it too late?

Once Were Warriors was the story of Beth’s (Rena Owen) attempts to hold her family together in the face of Jake’s violent outbursts. Broken Hearted is Jake’s redemption drama, in which Beth appears only briefly. Although it has a powerful opening and an effective ending, it’s not the equal of its predecessor, as its middle section is slow and meandering. Too much time is spent with Sonny, who is a less interesting character than Jake, who himself seems less dimensional than he did in Warriors. Using a different cinematographer (Alan Guilford) to Warriors, Broken Hearted has a low-key natural-light look, and there are some well-staged action/fight sequences. (Faint-hearted viewers take note: this film is just as violent as its predecessor.) All in all, Broken Hearted made less of an impression worldwide than Warriors, going straight to video in the UK.

The New Zealander film industry had its own revival in the late Seventies, several years after the Australian one. Ian Mune was there from the beginning, as an actor (1977’s Sleeping Dogs), a writer (1981’s Goodbye Pork Pie), and as a director (1985’s Came a Hot Friday). He had a brief acting role and served as script advisor on Once Were Warriors. Unlike some of his contemporaries (Roger Donaldson, Geoff Murphy) in the early days of the NZ cinema revival, Mune didn’t go to Hollywood and stayed at home. On the whole, his films are competently crafted, but generally not outstanding, and Broken Hearted – though darker and more violent than his usual style – is no exception. It’s certainly worth seeing, but ultimately Warriors is the film that will last.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? is transferred to DVD in a ratio of 1.85:1. On the whole, it’s a good, strong transfer, as you should expect from such a recent film. The picture respects the desaturated colour of the film. Blacks are solid, which is worth mentioning as many of the gang scenes involve dark-skinned, tattooed actors wearing black leather jackets at night. Some of it is good enough to overlook the lack of anamorphic enhancement, but some noticeable artefacting – especially in some of the night scenes – and aliasing bring the overall score down.

The Once Were Warriors DVD had a soundtrack, originally produced in the pre-digital era that was remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1. Although that was effectively done, the difference is that the soundtrack of Broken Hearted was intended to be in 5.1. From the opening few minutes, when a train (sounding in the rear speakers and subwoofer) cuts into a pub singalong, this is a track designed to keep the viewer on edge. David Hirschfelder’s score, jangling and discordant with a recurring ominous bass throb, adds to the effect. The subwoofer does a lot of work. There’s also a Dolby Surround track, but that inevitably has much less impact. There are twenty chapter stops. Unlike the earlier disc, there are subtitles included, intended for the hard of hearing. The main menu is static (with that bass throb playing), but the scene selection menu is animated. The sound varies according to which chapter you highlight.

Although there’s no commentary, the extras package is on a similar level to those on the Warriors disc. The making-of featurette runs 21:49. Although it’s clearly intended as promotional material, beginning with what amounts to a trailer, it’s more in-depth than most of its kind. Along with Mune and the leading actors, time is taken to hear from other members of the crew, including the tattoo artist and the man who made the Maori carvings seen in the movie. The trailer makes its expected appearance, running 1:47 and presented in non-anamorphic 16:9. The music video on this DVD is odd, as neither artist nor song is credited. Even its visual presentation is strange: non-anamorphic 16:9 with patterned bars instead of black ones. The extras are completed by a photo gallery and two TV ads, both in 1.66:1 and running 32 seconds. Notice how they emphasise different aspects of the film: one pitches Broken Hearted as a story of family love, the other as a story of gang warfare.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? is not negligible, but as a follow-up to Once Were Warriors it’s a little disappointing. Universal’s DVD is decent but not spectacular.

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