This moving character study of a gang member lives with moral weight and vulnerability
The conflict of vulnerability hits the heart of Sam Kelly’s dramatic yet surprisingly emotional debut. Over the course of three decades, it outlines the progress of young New Zealander Danny’s punk music through a life of tattooed street gangs. After being sent to borstal in the 1960s for stealing food and being abused there, he befriends a Tongan New Zealand boy named Moses. The two then form a gang, the Savages – named to expose the true core of nihilistic society – but are torn by loyalty to his biological family, position Danny’s is never guaranteed. In the ’80s, Danny became “Damage”, a big, lively law enforcement man who wore blue nose guards over his face with a gang emblem.
Kelly occasionally gives in to quirky crime drama styles, such as the first swagger Savage, in the style of Reservoir Dogs. But he made the smart choice to never be distracted from the emotional costs of keeping yourself in this self-inflicted testosterone prison. From the outset, Damage ruined a relationship with a banker’s daughter who liked to be a little rough because he couldn’t control his surrender. Looking back over the decades, violence is clearly rooted in pain and shame whose consequences will not cease to pervade.
Kelly has a knack for expressing these ideas with gentle lyrical succinctness, like the row of dominoes that begin the part of childhood. Attracting a young “potential customer” under his wing finally gives Damage a chance to break the circle. Former Home and Away actor Jake Ryan, possessing the same solemn counterpoint tone as Russell Crowe, has the physical necessary to play Damage; His character’s straight-arrow MO not only contrasts nicely with his gangly swaggering, mainly Maori and Pacific Islander friends, but also with the disturbing work interestingly James Matamua as a less confident teenager than his. A social outcast, Damage’s conflicting emotions make him an outcast within his own gang – and ultimately threaten him with permanent exile from his own innocent childhood. A moving character study with bruised moral weight.