You know what can be just as fun as seeing a movie that’s either really good or really bad? A movie that has a surprise, within a surprise. And I’m not referring to big plot twists or insane character revelations, I’m talking about the movie’s level of condition. Just when you think it’s going to zig, it zags. Pork Pie took me through quite the ride, and at first it frustrated me – only to make me want to give it a hug. How about that?

Jon (Dean O’Gorman), a novelist, is twisted up at his lowest point. He got kicked out of his flat, his agent called his work garbage in a rather clever way, and he’s about to crash a wedding in an attempt to talk to his former fiancee, Susie (Antonia Prebble), whom he’s severely wronged. While hitching a ride to the wedding, he’s picked up by Luke (James Rolleston) in a shiny yellow Mini Cooper. He’s in a rush, and apparently isn’t afraid of pissing off some of the local authorities. Before he knows it, Luke picks up another passenger, Keira (Ashleigh Cummings), who’s all about rallying against cruelty towards animals. One weird situation leads to another, and the trio become a sensation throughout New Zealand, being known as a band of outlaws that’s running from the cops while promoting a cause. This is a remake of the 1980 film Goodbye Pork Pie.

Truth time: about ten minutes in, I wanted to just tune out completely. Even with some eye-catching cinematography, Pork Pie failed to grab any sort of interest. We’re being thrusted into the story with some confusing set-ups, and we get to know Jon in a less-invested way than how I described a minute ago. Normally when something like this happens, a movie’s interested in something else, rather than setting up the story, but I couldn’t make heads or tails as to Pork Pie’s interest. Did you get what just happened? Do you know who is who? No? Well, too bad, off we go! When Luke is introduced, the intentions start seeing some light, but the pull to the audience still isn’t there. As far as the movie’s concerned, we’re just seeing some people behave rather aimlessly, even though they have some rooted intentions.

All of that was twenty minutes in, and I was nearly lost. But then…it happened. The turnaround.

Now keep in mind, the turnaround didn’t happen fast, and that’s the first admirable thing I can say about Pork Pie. As the story shifts from one day to the next, so does the film’s quality level. It builds up interest all around for its content and characters, and slowly the movie springs into a genuine feeling of engagement. There’s a particular scene where our trio hide out on a moving train –  discovering costumes, the outdoors, and a lot of themselves. It’s nothing completely original, but it’s damn effective, and it’s the first time the movie finds its strides.

From that point till the end, the overall virtue of Pork Pie goes through more of a ride than that sweet-looking Cooper. At times it’s absolutely wonderful, and at times borderline ineffectual. The good news? The positive scenes outweigh the negative ones. Boldly leading the charge on the positive front are the performances from the bandits themselves. They all rise up to give us noteworthy characters. They all have their unique motivations, and by the time it all comes to a close, as far as character development goes, it ends in the most badass way possible. I asked myself, “Wait a minute…a movie I was already prepared to loathe is making me tear up at the end…well played, Pork Pie. Well played.”

The times the movie goes down a slump, it’s noticeable. From the supporting cast’s acting to odd choices in story direction (I suppose I’d have to see the original to find out it it matches up but it some scenes still felt off), but fortunately its null side doesn’t hang around for very long. When it feels like it’s about to lose its way, Pork Pie bounces back as if it remembers what’s really important here: the gang, the car, and the ride. Another thing that needs to be noticed is the stunt driving here; it’s completely aces. Performing car stunts on a big budget is cool to see, but seeing car stunts on a small budget is always intriguing. It can go either poorly or well. There’s a quick moment that made me gasp; it’s still looping in my head thinking that it couldn’t have been real.

I can confidently say Pork Pie is the finest movie I’ve seen in awhile which also contains a ton of flaws. It’s not a masterpiece, and it’s not a forgettable romp. It’s worth getting over the slog of the beginning to get to the gems in the middle and end, and it’s a terrific showcase for the three leads. I’m glad I kept giving it a chance because it was worth it. That ending, now that I think about it, is pretty great. And as this is the final film I see for the fest, my first outing at Fantasia has been good to me. Till next time, Fantasia.