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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]



Ronald Hugh Morrieson is something of a Kiwi literary outlaw. An author who consistently challenged the prudent literary values of his time, Morrieson spent his years living and writing in South Taranaki until his death in 1972. Throughout that time, he wrote four novels—The Scarecrow, Pallet on the Floor, Came A Hot Friday and Predicament, all depicting copious amounts of gambling, sex and murder in small town New Zealand. The first three all had their film adaptations in the 80s, and now, in 2010, Predicament finally gets its big screen treatment.

Jason Stutter’s adaptation faithfully follows Morrieson’s coming-of-age tale of naïve teenager Cedric Williamson (newcomer Hayden Frost), drawn into a blackmailing scheme by two would-be crooks: fast-talking Mervyn Toebeck (Heath Franklin—best known for his comedy character Chopper ‘Harden the Fuck Up’ Reed) and ‘Spook’ (Jemaine Clement). But as one can expect, the con goes awry, resulting in betrayal and murder.

Clement has brought the most press and attention onto the film, even though his role is relatively minor. Nevertheless, he is at his scene-stealing best here and provides the film with the bulk of its giggles. Franklin is well cast, conveying the necessary charm and menace the role demands, and Hayden Frost, given the unenviable task of playing straight man to the two crooks, contributes an admirable effort, even if he overplays his stammering schtick a little too frequently.

Predicament looks quite brilliant; there is some fabulous gothic/noir influence in the art direction and the cinematography is suitably elegant, capturing a dark and palpable feel for Morrieson’s crooked Hawera. Director Stutter has clearly improved dramatically as a helmsman from earlier efforts, exerting obvious control, but he can occasionally still be a little too heavy-handed, preventing the film from breathing on its own. In keeping faithful to source material, Stutter snuffs this out a little, keeping things at a medium simmer. It’s still tense and comic, but with a tightened script and looser tone, it might have really been a knockout for wild laughs. Yet despite its flaws, Predicament is a fitting tribute to Morrieson, a fun slice of Kiwi black comedy and proof of a blossoming director on the rise.

Director: Jason Stutter


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