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Maori couple Jake (Temiera Morrison) and Beth (Rena Owen) have been married for 18 years, but although charming, Jake has a brutal temper and a rampant drink problem.

Living in the Auckland slums with their children, unemployed Jake spends most of his time in the pub, drinking and getting into fights to prove his masculinity, and when he returns home Beth and the children are on the receiving end of his extreme violence.

With the ongoing abuse and instability affecting their children differently, Beth struggles to keep her family together and soon devastating events unfold that will change all their lives forever. (Taken from the official synopsis.)


I don’t have too much information on the elements used for this release, but having viewed screen captures from a few reviews of the US disc, it looks to be the same scan. It’s a nicely detailed, filmic image with finely resolved grain and only a few minor instances of visible print damage here and there. The colour palette is generally quite muted, with lots of earthen tones, although the interiors of the bars and homes have some nice warm reds and yellows. Contrast appears to be slightly improved over the US release (at least going by screen caps), which results in stronger colours,  deeper blacks and a more satisfying overall appearance. It’s also a pretty solid encode with no major issues to report.

Oh, before I forget, for some strange reason the opening and closing scenes are letterboxed and windowboxed. I’m not sure why this was done, or if it’s representative of the original version of the film, but I thought it worth mentioning.


The disc includes both LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 options. The original film was apparently released with a Dolby Stereo mix, the four channels of which were later used to create the 5.1 audio. To be honest there’s not a huge amount between the 2.0 and 5.1 tracks when the former undergoes Dolby ProLogic II processing via my amp.

The ever-present sounds of the inner-city locales are evenly distributed among all of the channels, which creates plenty of atmosphere and makes for a fairly expansive sound-stage. Stereo separation isn’t too bad, dialogue is effectively rendered, and there’s even some potent bass to be found here and there. The latter generally accompanies the various rap, reggae and rock tracks that comprise the film’s soundtrack, although it kicks into life every time Jake takes it upon himself to pummel someone!


The disc includes a limited number of bonus features, but both the documentary and interview are quite lengthy and informative, so it's definitely a case of quality over quantity.

  • Once Were Warriors – Where Are They Now: A documentary looking back at the film’s production and impact as well as re-uniting the cast 20 years later
  • Directing The Warriors – An interview with Lee Tamahori
  • Theatrical Trailer


Before I summarise I need to apologise for the extreme lateness of this review. I'd hoped to have it done in time for the disc's release, but unfortunately life got in the way (as it so often does). I just haven't had the time to craft a lengthier piece and I didn't want to gloss over the important themes covered by the film. What I will say is that it's an incredibly powerful picture that deals with some very difficult subject matter in a way that neither condones nor condemns. I should also say that the performances are extremely compelling across the board, particularly those of Rena Owen and Temuera Morrison (who many people will most likely recognise as Jango Fett from Attack of the Clones).

As for the disc itself, well it features a strong audio-visual presentation that showcases the film's gritty, yet stylised aesthetic and raw soundtrack to good effect. The bonus material is also very entertaining, which isn't always a guarantee on catalogue releases of this nature. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's almost worth the asking price alone if you're a particularly big fan of the film. It is for these reasons that Once for Warriors comes recommended.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors
 Once Were Warriors