Review: ‘For Good’

Guilt and retribution follow in the path of the abduction, rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl. This is apparently the stuff of rural legend in New Zealand, a recurring nightmare fueled by several real cases. Pic occasionally dips into odd pockets of emotional complexity, but ambition far outweighs execution. Cable sales are an outside possibility.

In the enigmatically titled “For Good,” guilt and retribution follow in the path of the abduction, rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl out riding her horse. This is apparently the stuff of rural legend in New Zealand, a recurring nightmare fueled by several real cases. But stubbornly pedestrian imagery and uneven thesping do little to universalize the dread. Pic occasionally dips into odd pockets of emotional complexity, but ambition far outweighs execution. Cable sales are an outside possibility.

Neophyte journalist (Michelle Langstone), who has just left the parental nest, obsessively identifies with a murder victim with whom she shared a birthdate, a birthplace and a love of horses. When the murderer (Tim Balme) comes up for parole after a decade in jail, she interviews him, setting off a chain reaction which soon engulfs her, her flatmate, her parents, the victim’s family and the paroled slayer. In this round-robin of sexual attraction, vengeance and atonement, Balme is suitably volatile as the killer. But only co-producer Miranda Harcourt as the victim’s mother evokes the moral ambivalence pic supposedly swims in, while others flounder in shallower waters. DV-to-35 lensing is OK.

For Good

New Zealand

Production

A New Zealand Film Commission/NZ on Air presentation of a Map Film production. Produced by Neil Pardington. Co-producers Stuart McKenzie, Miranda Harcourt. Directed, written by Stuart McKenzie.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Duncan Cole; editor, Paul Sutorius; music, Shayne Carter. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (Films of Oceania), Sept. 3, 2003. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Michelle Langstone, Tim Balme, Miranda Harcourt, Tim Gordon, Adam Gardiner, Hera Dunleavy.
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