Broken English (1996)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - May 2, 1997 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - New Zealand   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Tom Wiener

The opening scene of this film -- in the aftermath of a friendly poker game, an enraged father and his son destroy a man's car after they catch him making out with the family's eldest daughter -- sets the tone for what's to follow. The story, much of it taking place at night, is always moments away from heavy sex or explosive violence, and Nina, the daughter of Croatian immigrant Ivan, usually instigates both. In director and co-writer Gregor Nicholas' New Zealand, the collision of cultures and races can produce love, as in Nina's romance with Eddie, her Maori colleague at work, or rage, as in the reactions of Ivan to news about his homeland of Bosnia or to the smiling Maoris who live next door to his family or to any man outside of his Croatian circle of pals who even looks at his luscious daughter. (And even on that point, it's suggested that Ivan's feelings toward Nina might not be entirely chaste.) The story careens toward an inevitable violent confrontation between Ivan and Eddie, and it's clear that for Eddie, the brutal brawl is as much about upholding the dignity of his Maori brothers and sisters -- accorded third-class citizenship behind the likes of drug-dealing immigrants like Ivan -- as it is about laying claim to Nina.