Hunt For The Wilderpeople (12A)

Director: Taika Waititi

Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Rhys Darby

IF you are on the run then there is no better place for it than the outback of New Zealand.

Bushland covers thousands of acres in the vast country with plenty of opportunities to run and hide and avoid prying eyes.

That is the life that mismatched pair Hec (Sam Neill) and Ricky (Julian Dennison) inadvertently embrace when a series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings cause them to be pursued by hapless police officers and rangers in the great outdoors.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople is director Taika Waititi's quirky love letter to his country.

But his warm-hearted oddball of a comedy is also about the notion of home and the true meaning of family.

The film, based on a novel by Barry Crump, focuses on young, misunderstood Ricky who has had a bad start in life.

The chubby city kid has moved from foster home to foster home but finally finds acceptance from selfless Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and cantankerous Hec.

A sudden event causes all that to change though when Ricky and Hec find themselves on the wrong side of an overzealous child welfare officer (Rachel House).

With plenty of dry and deadpan humour, it plays out like a cross between The Fugitive and Flight of the Conchords.

One of the key strengths of Hunt For The Wilderpeople is the chemistry between Hec and Ricky.

The way their relationship develops feels completely organic despite the stylised film's quirky overtones.

It is impossible not to warm to Dennison as Ricky as you learn of his love for gangster rap and haiku poetry.

Neill is on top form as grumpy outdoorsman Hec whose frosty exterior eventually melts to be grudgingly replaced by a paternal instinct.

And House is brilliant as the awful child welfare officer who treats children as unwanted reprobates that need to be ticked off a form.

If you are aware of Waititi's other work on the likes of Flight of the Conchords, The Inbetweeners, Eagle vs Shark and What We Do In The Shadows, you will know what sort of kooky experience to expect.

But Hunt For The Wilderpeople is among the writer and director's best work.

- Hunt For The Wilderpeople is available to watch at Home in Manchester

RATING: 8/10