PLOT The remarkable true story of Genesis Potini (Curtis), a troubled former chess champion with bipolar disorder, who leads an unruly gang of underprivileged New Zealand kids to the national chess finals.
Imagine what Hollywood would do with the story of a bipolar disorder sufferer who mentors a group of underprivileged New Zealand kids, turning them into would-be chess champions. Then shudder, and watch this heartfelt telling of a truly extraordinary true story. Māori actor Cliff Curtis hasn’t really had a major role since Whale Rider, but it’s safe to say he gives the performance of his career as Genesis Potini, the troubled former chess champion who channelled his skills into mentoring an unruly gang of slum kids in the game of kings – and took them all the way to the finals of the New Zealand national chess championships.
VERDICT Cliff Curtis gives an astonishing performance in this New Zealand box office hit, based on the unlikeliest true story (chronicled in the 2003 documentary Dark Horse) to come out of New Zealand since Heavenly Creatures. ★★★★