Never Say Die (1988)

Over the past three or four years, I’ve repeatedly watched and enjoyed the Youtube clip showing the brief cameo of the legendary John Clarke in a film called Never Say Die, a New Zealand action comedy starring Temuera Morrison. But I was never able to track down the film (it was only released on VHS, never on DVD).

My luck changed recently when I saw it available on streaming – but only with a German audio track, which is a crying shame. Still, needs must, and last week I settled down to watch this film in German.

Temuera Morrison (Star Wars; Aquaman) plays Alf, a New Zealand journalist unpopular with the police; co-lead Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop; An Officer and a Gentleman) plays Alf’s wife Melissa. There is a main supporting role for Tony Barry as police inspector Evans, and smaller supporting roles for Cheers‘s George Wendt as well as for Geoff Murphy, who also directed, co-produced, and co-wrote the film.
+++ A lot of suspicious accidents befall Alf and Melissa, and Alf is convinced that someone who’s unhappy with his journalistic exploits might be trying to kill him. Inspector Evans thinks that this is all in Alf’s head. So Melissa and Alf go on the run criss-crossing New Zealand by car, taxi, boat, bus, and planes both big and small. Amongst some twists and turns (and lots of car chases and explosions) both Alf and inspector Evans have to realise that their initial assumptions may have been incorrect. +++

The performances in this film are good, and Morrison and Eilbacher make for a charming screen-couple. In style, tone, and content, this 1988 action comedy models itself after Hollywood films of the concluding decade, while entirely keeping its Kiwi charm.
The film has a very 1980s soundtrack, as well as the obligatory car chases, shoot-outs, and explosions. There is an inevitable “by-the-book” feel to this amalgamation of impressive action scenes, but the film is entertaining and feels well-paced for most of the first and second act. The film is so tightly paced that some of these (rather good) sequences were perhaps not given enough time and room to breathe. In the third act, however, the pacing seems off; and the final car chase also feels far too long.

While the car-based action comedy genre represented by Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy may have been one influence on this film, one might even go as far back as Live and Let Die and the exploits of Sheriff J. W. Pepper. In fact, there is a James Bond reference in this film, and so the somewhat Bondesque title, Never Say Die, is probably no coincidence.

The plot plays out more or less exactly as you would expect in a film of this kind, and the usual twists and turns will surprise you only half of the time. And while I found this film enjoyable, I can only rate it at 5.5 out of 10 for the moment; but need to point out that it would probably have been far more entertaining if I could have seen it in English.


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