(MA, 101 minutes.)
Screen depictions of male friendship tend to alternate between the quietly serious and the maniacally irrepressible.
Two Little Boys - trailer
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Two Little Boys - trailer
Two Little Boys follows Nige and Deano's riotous misadventures as they struggle with their imploding long-term friendship which has been put under pressure by an unfortunate incident involving a hot meat pie, a ginger cat and the untimely death of a Scandinavian soccer star.
Men are either in the midst of The Shawshank Redemption or The Hangover. That separation, thankfully, gets somewhat scrambled in Two Little Boys, an eccentric, and increasingly black, comedy in which being best mates leads to dismembering a corpse with an axe, making bad toasted sandwiches, and other masculine sins.
The film is set in New Zealand's southernmost city - a seemingly deserted Invercargill - in 1993 - a period certified by acid-wash jeans, a Rodney Rude T-shirt and cursory mullets. The halting protagonist is Nige (Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie), a barely proficient adult whose attempts to grow up draw the wrath of his childhood best friend, Deano (Australian comic Hamish Blake), with whom he used to share a flat.
But when Nige accidentally runs down and kills a Norwegian backpacker and panics, he's naturally drawn back to Deano, who has been inconsolable without his best friend and extracts a heavy price for coming to his aid.
Deano, an Australian expatriate (Blake wisely doesn't try for an accent), is so happy to have his best friend back, his glee temporarily obscures a murderous commitment to protect Nige from everything, including the stirrings of his own conscience.
Directed by Robert Sarkies and adapted from his brother Duncan's 2008 novel, Two Little Boys subverts the antipodean belief in friendship, even invoking the Anzac myth to show Deano taking a bullet for Nige on the battlefields of World War I.
It has comic inserts and a rustic aesthetic typical of low-budget independent filmmaking, but it's also the buddy movie lurking in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
McKenzie and Blake are best known as members of comedic duos; their dynamic here pushes them into uncomfortable extremes as Deano plots to bump off Nige's new housemate, Gav (Maaka Pohatu).
McKenzie makes Nige jittery, while Blake's boisterousness verges on the monstrous. The movie doesn't quite know what to do with the pair, too often cycling through Deano intimidating Nige in the guise of saving him and Nige mustering the courage to object.
But with a backdrop of natural wonders and an ironic deployment of familiar Kiwi pop hits, Two Little Boys strikes a fair balance between the outlandish and the recognisable.