By setting the film in and amongst the Maori people, Once Were Warriors successfully raises awareness to some of the issues that would seem to still plague them: alcoholism, substance abuse, poverty.
Surprisingly, the longsword or greatsword is arguably a more complex weapon that the katana. Though there were single-edge versions, it generally has two edges that can be used, as well as a versatile crossguard and pommel permitting a variety of specialized techniques. Another element to consider is that European swords could be used in "half-sword" techniques where the second hand literally grips around the blade itself to wield the weapon in bashing, deflecting, binding, and trapping in all manner of ways that virtually make it a pole-axe or short spear. This was especially effective in fighting against plate armor. We must ponder would this be unusual for the samurai or just very similar to fighting with a short staff? Either way, with its especially sharp edge, a katana is not employed quite like this.
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Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell is also excellent as their daughter, bringing to the movie, through her character, a sense of hope, however short lived that hope might be.
Once Were Warriors arrives on Blu-ray from Film Movement in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks very good.