Out of the Blue



NEW YORK -- Filmmaker Robert Sarkies meticulously brings to life the events of the deadliest rampage in New Zealand history in this harrowing if ultimately less than emotionally resonant docudrama. Although it provides an undeniably gripping, ultrarealistic depiction of the 1990 killing spree that occurred in the small beachside town of Aramoana, "Out of the Blue" is not likely to make much of an impact on audiences not already familiar with the story.

Shot on the actual locations, the film is done in a cinema-verite style, beginning with bucolic scenes of the townspeople as they go about their business on a lazy morning. A discordant note is stuck by the obvious agitation of one of them, David Gray (Matthew Sunderland), a middle-age loner and gun nut who we see getting into a shouting match with a bank teller. After getting into another angry altercation with a neighbor, the well-armed Gray shoots him and then sets fire to his house.

This leads to a long afternoon in which Gray -- about whom he learn very little in the course of the film -- terrorizes the townspeople with random shootings that eventually resulted in 13 fatalities.

The film largely concentrates on the efforts of the would-be victims to help one another in the face of the murderous chaos, their quiet acts of heroism serving to reduce the ultimate body count. The motivations of the killer are left largely unexplored, save for various hallucinatory interludes suggesting his obvious mental illness.

Ultimately, however, the film, for all its evident verisimilitude, never really demonstrates a compelling reason for being. Without such thematic resonance, it plays like a more elaborate version of one of the dramatic re-creations seen on any number of true-crime television programs.

IFC First Take/The Weinstein Co.
Southern Light Films/Desert Road Films
Director: Robert Sarkies
Screenwriters: Graeme Tetley, Robert Sarkies
Producers: Tim White, Steven O'Meagher
Director of photography: Greig Fraser
Production designer: Phil Ivey
Music: Victoria Kelly
Costume designer: Lesley Burkes-Harding
Editor: Annie Collins
Nick Harvey: Karl Urban
David Gray: Matthew Sunderland
Helen Dickerson: Lois Lawn
Garry Holden: Simon Ferry
Julie Ann Bryson: Tandi Wright
Paul Knox: Paul Glover
Stu Guthrie: William Kircher
Running time -- 103 minutes
No MPAA rating