The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse


The Dark Horse.  Rating:  4 (out of 5).  The film is based on an inspiring true story of the charismatic and brilliant chess champion, Genesis Potini, who, despite his own struggles, found the courage to lead and teach the children of his community. “The Dark Horse” premieres on VOD on Tuesday, July 12.  The Hollywood Reporter notes, “Cliff Curtis gives the performance of his career in this moving portrait of a New Zealand legend.”

Starring: Barry Te Hira, Cliff Curtis, James Napier Robertson, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Miriama McDowell
Director: James Napier Robertson
Rating: R
Genre: Drama



Variety thinks, “The Dark Horse is as good a title as any for a film that takes an overplayed genre — the inspirational mentor story — and still manages to surprise, sneaking up to deliver a powerful emotional experience within a formula we all know by heart”

San Francisco Chronicle finds, “There are several excellent performances, including Wayne Hapi as Potini’s hardened brother. But Curtis is the most memorable part of “The Dark Horse.” He gets lost in a method performance, remaining convincing as he loses and finds reality. Through each turn, his humanity keeps getting stronger.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes, “Cliff Curtis gives the performance of his career in this moving portrait of a New Zealand legend.”

Washington Post writes, “Despite its familiar, come-from-behind contours, the story brims with redemptive optimism that it comes by honestly, thanks to its extraordinary main character and the equally remarkable actor who plays him.”

Entertainment Weekly gives the movie a B+ rating, and further notes, “Although some cloying clichés and the dragging runtime keep it from being a flawless game, The Dark Horse still manages to pull out a checkmate.”

Village Voice says, “James Napier Robertson’s film combines several potentially tired subgenres — the inspirational-teacher drama, the mental illness drama, and the gang thriller — but, helped immeasurably by Curtis’s performance, makes something new out of them.”

Los Angeles Times finds, “If its wobbliness doesn’t always serve its commanding central performance, the movie does mark a sensitive, low-key approach to outsiders of any kind, one that legitimizes their struggle without selling them as ready-made saints.”

The New York Times observes, “The movie partly resists the temptation to follow a predictable feel-good route to a fairy-tale ending. That said, it has enough conveniently timed little triumphs to send up warning signs.”

According to Boston Globe, “Dark Horse falls into the formula of underprivileged kids challenging the elites at their own game. But the outcome is never certain.”

Wall Street Journal thinks, “The Dark Horse brings Cliff Curtis back home, and he gives a performance that’s transcendent in more ways than one.”

Arizona Republic says, “Cliff Curtis is staggeringly good as Gen.”

The Telegraph gives the film 3 out of 5 stars, and further notes, “After a week of troubling mental health narratives elsewhere, it’s a relief to encounter one this enlightened, and enlightening.”

The Guardian finds, “The script could have done without the odd bout of heavy-handed chess symbolism (“a king for a king”) but it’s a solidly entertaining drama with an intriguingly unconventional lead.”

The Globe and Mail rates the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars, and further writes, “Cliff Curtis deeply and soulfully portrays the late Genesis Potini, a check-mating New Zealander who battles demons and gang members while attempting to inspire a ragtag youth chess club. The cinematography is evocative – rainy, rich, gritty and raw, for this inspiring but not always pretty story – and Curtis is 100-per-cent watchable as a puffy, mumbling shuffler whose chess lessons double as life strategies.” gives the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, and further notes, “Strategy combats chaos, strategy focuses people on one goal, and with strategy, winning is actually possible. That’s what The Dark Horse is all about.”

CineVue thinks, “The deft and highly emotive handling of his condition and the wider ramifications of his story make The Dark Horse a lot more than merely the against-the-odds chess story that it may initially appear to be.”

Time Out London gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars, and further writes, “It’s a film with the texture and truth of life, and at its heart is a beautiful performance by Cliff Curtis, who never in a million years will be nominated for an Oscar, but deserves one.”

Slant Magazine says, “Despite the occasional cliché, this film mostly feels as messy as life, and as movingly complicated.”

Empire Online gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars, and further notes, “The heartfelt telling of a truly extraordinary true story with a mesmerising central performance.”

A.V. Club rates the movie a B-, and further writes, “The Dark Horse may not entirely work as a film, but it has an unexpected amount of gritty idiosyncrasy on its side.”


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