The Legend of Baron To'a DVD Reviewed by Clayton Barnett

The Premise
Fritz, a displaced Tongan man, returns to the cul-de-sac of his youth to sell his family home. When a priceless heirloom - a championship wrestling belt belonging to his late father, Baron To’a, - is pillaged from the family home, Fritz’s uncle Otto cancels the sale of the house until the belt is returned. A local street thug reveals the belt is now in the possession of resident gang, The Pig Hunters. Fritz determines to get the belt back with higher reasoning. After a run-in with a corrupt cop and a vicious attack from the gang, three patched members invite Fritz to a BBQ to ‘break bread’. The family-oriented BBQ becomes dangerous after dark as Fritz comes face-to-face with gang leader Tahu who has the belt draped over his shoulder. Fritz fails to reason with Tahu and is ruthlessly beaten into the streets. While healing, Fritz realises he must rekindle a lost connection with his father’s legacy, proclaiming to Otto that he wants a “shot at the title”. After training with Otto, Fritz combines his analytics skills with his father’s wrestling techniques to smash his way through the gang and flush out Tahu. An epic ‘no holds barred’ title fight ensues but does Fritz truly understand what it takes to become the champion?

The Review
The Legend of Baron To’a is like someone unearthed an awesome Kiwi action comedy from the 80’s. With slapstick laughs, hard-hitting action and even a bit of romance, there’s something for the whole family.

This is brilliant homegrown stuff from debut director Kiel McNaughton (Find Me A Maori Bride) who show’s celebrating our culture and heritage can be hugely entertaining. He’s put the cultural melting pot of South Auckland on screen and it looks fantastic (kudos to cinematographer Drew Sturge).

We’ve had some great local flicks recently with the likes of Mega Time Squad and Take Home Pay, but with the WWF-style wrestling flavour this harks back to 80’s gems like Goodbye Pork Pie, Never Say Die and Came a Hot Friday.

This movie flies off the top rope from the start, mixing well-choreographed action - there’s a frenetic and funny parkour chase scene early on - some laugh-out-loud slapstick all soundtracked by some quality local tunes. But what really stands out are the smarts on show, McNaughton challenges stereotypes with a raft of intelligent characters set to inspire the next generation.

He’s brought together a wonderful cast too, Uli Latukefu (who’ll be in Taika Waititi’s new film Next Goal Wins) carries the movie with brain and brawn, and he’s ably helped by the likes of recognisable faces like Jay Laga’aia, Shavaughn Ruakere and Nathaniel Lees. And John Tui steals every scene as the hilarious legend himself, Baron To’a.

The Verdict
If you can only see one Kiwi movie this year, see this. It’s an awesomely fun family flick that’ll make you laugh, cheer and even tug at the heartstrings. Championship stuff.

The Trailer
The Info
Releases: 20th February 2020
Rating: RP13 – Contains violence and offensive language
Duration: 103 minutes 
Genre:  Comedy
Starring: Uli Latukefu, Nathaniel Lees, John Tui
Director: Kiel McNaughton (Debut feature film)

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