PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Once Were Warriors (Blu-ray) (1994)

Once Were Warriors (Blu-ray) (1994)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Nov-2009

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary
Short Film
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Music Video
Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 98:33
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lee Tamahori
Icon Entertainment Starring Rena Owen
Temuera Morrison
Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell
Julian Arahanga
Taungaroa Emile
Rachael Morris Jr.
Joseph Kairau
Cliff Curtis
Pete Smith
George Henare
Case ?
RPI ? Music Murray Grindlay
Murray McNabb

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Adapted from Alan Duff's best-selling novel by playwright Riwia Brown, and directed by Lee Tamahori, Once Were Warriors, successfully played the international film festival circuit. A gritty, raw, and often ugly drama about domestic violence within a modern urban Maori community, Once Were Warriors went on to become one of the most successful films in New Zealand's history. Having enjoyed various releases on DVD, Once Were Warriors is now available in High Definition on Blu-ray.

    First-time director Lee Tamahori has done an excellent job in depicting the day-to-day lives of members of an urban Maori family. The turbulent Heke family is held together by its women, principally the weary Beth (Rena Owen) and her eldest daughter, 16-year-old Grace (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell). Beth is a sensitive mother who struggles to keep her family together, but she also enjoys a drink and sticks by her brutish husband. Beth comes from a noble Maori family, who disapproved of her marriage to Jake Heke (Temuera Morrison), some 18 years earlier. Jake meanwhile is a descendant of once-proud Maori warriors, who now find themselves living brawling welfare-dependant lives in the urban ghettos of South Auckland.

    Drifting between jobs, Jake spends his welfare money drinking and gambling with his rowdy Maori mates. He often gets into fights and brings large groups home for more drinking and eating. Jake's violent temper has distanced him from his children, especially his eldest son Nig (Julian Arahanga), who has left home to join a Maori gang. Another son has been sent to a reform school, where he learns his first lessons in Maori pride. But the real tragic victim is Grace, who suffers at the hands of her Uncle Bully (Cliff Curtis).

    Despite our society becoming increasingly aware of the widespread prevalence of domestic violence within the broader community, there are very few films that approach the subject. Although on one level some may comfort themselves that Once Were Warriors is a sad statement of the current state of a colonised native people, who lost their home, language, and culture to British Imperialism, on another level, the themes of alcoholism and violence within poor working-class and welfare families transcend just the community depicted.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Once Were Warriors is presented with a high definition transfer, but only authored in 1920 x 1080i. It has been encoded using AVC compression. The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a native widescreen 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.

    The detail of the image is good, and noticeably better than the collector's edition DVD (and much, much better than the non-16x9 enhanced DVD I originally purchased). That noted, the film overall has a slightly soft-focus.

    The film has a slightly desaturated palette which enhances the film's gritty locations. Some scenes seem to have a slightly orange tint, but I imagine this appearance was an artistic choice. There are no problems with MPEG or Film-To-Video Artefacts, but some minor Film Artefacts still appear.

   Only English subtitles are offered and they are accurate. The feature is divided into 13 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Both English dts HD MA 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps) options are provided on this Blu-ray.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are good, but occasionally the urban accents and slang of some of the actors make the odd word of dialogue difficult to understand.

   The original music is provided by Murray Grindlay and Murray McNabb and is very atmospheric.

    Once Were Warriors is a dialogue-based film, but the surround presence and LFE activity comes to life during many of the scenes. The surround sound mix carries the score, provides ambience, but not surprisingly there are not many directional effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are a few extras.

Floating Menus

    As with other Blu-rays, the menu options can be accessed while the film is playing.

Thunderbox (26:10)

    Thunderbox is the 1989 short film directed by Lee Tamahori. It is presented in standard definition with stereo audio.

Audio Commentary

    Lee Tamahori provides an interesting commentary sharing some anecdotes, some behind-the-scenes information, and a discussion of the social issues presented in the film.

Cast Interviews (6:50)

     Including some clips from the film, there are interviews with Rena Owen and Temuera Morrison

Music Videos

Cast Biographies

    Text-based biographies for Rena Owen, Temuera Morrison, and Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell.

Making Off (12:27)

    Featuring on-set interviews with Lee Tamahori, Riwia Brown, and a number of the cast and crew, it is presented in standard definition with stereo audio. It is mainly comprised of clips from the film with

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    So far I have not seen a Region A US release.


    Once Were Warriors is a powerful and raw film, and deserves to be seen. The Blu-ray provides a much clearer picture and an overall better viewing experience.

    The video quality is an improvement from the DVD, but not 1080p.

    The audio quality is also good.

    The extras are limited, but understandable considering this was a modest-budget film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Monday, December 14, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSamsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)

Other Reviews NONE