The raw and powerful sequel to Once Were Warriors, set six years later and looks at a different aspect of Maori life - gang warfare. Maori man Jake Heke and his wife, Beth have separated, largely due to his excessive drinking. When their older son, Nig, is killed in a gang fight, his brother Sonny becomes determined to avenge his death. Attempting to change his life for the better, Jake tries to help Sonny avoid Nig's tragic fate.
Once Were Warriors told the tragic story of a family of urban Maoris, that former warrior race, reduced to drunken violence, wife bashing, degradation. Who could forget the performances of Temuera Morrison as Jake or Rena Owen as Beth, his loving but beleaguered wife?
In this sequel, also written by Alan Duff, Jake and Beth have long since separated and Jake has a new girlfriend, but he still drinks himself into a violent stupor most nights. The new film looks at a different aspect of Maori life - gang warfare. One of Jake's sons is killed in a gang fight; another, Sonny (Clint Eruera), along with his dead brother's girlfriend, Tania (Nancy Brunning), vows revenge...
Although a more conventional film than Once Were Warriors, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted still impresses with its vivid portrait of a vibrant but deeply divided culture. The gang warfare story could almost be unfolding in the barrios of Los Angeles, and, as directed by Ian Mune, it comes across as a gripping thriller which never ignores its social dimension. Rena Owen has what amounts to a cameo role, and Temuera Morrison - whose screen presence is incredibly strong - isn't centre stage for many key scenes while the younger generation take over. Allen Guilford's cinematography makes a major contribution to this powerful, sad film.
This sequel to Once Were Warriors seems less grounded in realism than its predecessor and suffers for it in a way. But this story of the salvation of Jake has a mesmerising quality, letting us enter into a world, a violent one, that exposes the dislocation and alienation of a culture. Temuera Morrison is dynamic as Jake, you can't take your eyes off him when he's on screen. He's very ably supported by Clint Eruera as Sonny and particularly Nancy Brunning as Tania. Director Ian Mune gives an important energy to the film so that you emerge, after a rather abrupt ending, moved and shattered once again by the forces operating in the disadvantaged Maori community in New Zealand.