Ryan Heron and Andy Deere’s affectionate and funny documentary introduces us to the competitive sport of ‘medieval combat’ and its eccentric cast of characters – each vying to swing swords (not to mention battle axes, maces and halberds) for New Zealand on the world stage. Just don’t call it re-enactment or LARPing, because this intensely physical and exhausting sport of violent armour-clad combat is anything but play-acting.
Our initiation into this weird and wonderful world comes through the enthusiastic but self-confessedly out of shape rookie, Nick Waiariki. His quest for glory takes him from Rotorua to Taranaki, where he is set to try out for the number one-ranked Kiwi team, the Steel Thorns. Captain of the Thorns, Martainn ‘The Machine’ Cuff displays the kind of passion and commitment to the sport Nick will need to emulate. Martainn has a lifelong dream to represent his country but has an unexpected obstacle to overcome – his pathological fear of wolves. Thorns manager and master armourer Justin Stockbridge is one of New Zealand’s most experienced fighters, but his appetite for boundary-pushing weapon design and take-no-prisoners management style ruffle more than a few feathers. Does this oddball crew have what it takes to compete internationally in what must be one of the world’s most brutal combat sports? — MM
“A lot of people who get into this, they can’t really identify as a geek or as a jock. They do geeky stuff, so that’s what they think they are. Or they do jocky stuff… This is the first thing that I’ve ever seen where geek meets jock.” — Martainn ‘The Machine’ Cuff