A Kiwi Western
Arjan van Diemen (Ray Winstone), an Afrikaans veteran of the Boer War, arrives in New Zealand where some who spent part of the war hunting him would like to lock him up for what he did to soldiers during the war. But Maj. Pritchard Carlysle (Gareth Reeves) knows that Arjan's skills will be of use. When local Kereama (Temuera Morrison) is accused of attacking soldiers Carlysle hires Arjan to track him down and bring him in. Both men are experts in surviving in the wilderness but eventually Arjan gets his man and as he attempts to bring him in these two clash but also start to understand each other and how things are not as clear cut as they first seem.
If "Tracker" had been pitched to a studio back in the 1950s the chances are that either it would have been passed on and ended up at some low budget studio or they would have changed it and turned it into an American western. I say that because as I watched "Tracker" I couldn't help but think of the James Stewart movie "The Naked Spur" which saw the acting legend playing a bounty hunter tracking down a criminal. In truth I could have mentioned a variety of movies because the storyline of a hunter tracking down a man who turns out to be innocent is nothing new.
The thing about "Tracker" is that it builds up expectations but never comes good on them. From the word go we have this aspect of Arjan van Diemen being hated by the soldiers for what he did during the Boer War and then we have Kereama, a Maori who has nifty survival skills as he uses natures products to clean a wound and fashion a spear to catch himself a meal. But it never truly comes to life as we have this slow, sometimes interesting procession as first Arjan tracks Kereama down then has to bring him in which works it through some recognizable cliches such as a stand off when Kereama gets hold of a rifle.
Now Temuera Morrison is well cast as Kereama and "Tracker" is at its most entertaining watching him survive in the wilderness. But then there is Ray Winstone and on one level he is well cast as he has the look and mannerisms down perfectly which makes it a visually entertaining performance but then the accent and his mumbling didn't do it for me and found it really annoying especially during tracking scenes where he mumbles things which seem only to be there to spoon feed the audience information on what is going on.
What this all boils down to is that "Tracker" is not a bad movie and from a visual perspective is quite good especially with the occasional scenic shot. But after the initial scenes of tracking it becomes ordinary and that is a disappointment as it really lifted expectations during those early scenes that it would rise above the genre's cliches.