New Zealand, just like neighbouring Australia, played important role in WW2. Those people who base their historical knowledge on films would, however, have problems with this, because New Zealand's participation in Allied effort was not properly covered by film makers. This is partly due to New Zealand's relatively small size and geographic position, which precluded New Zealand to develop its film industry in the same manner as Australia did. One of rare New Zealand's films to deal with its country's role in WW2 is The Last Tattoo, 1994 period thriller directed by Peter Reid.
The plot is set in 1943. At the time New Zealand is used as staging area for US Marines who prepare for the grand offensive against Japanese in the islands of Central and Southwest Pacific. Small nation is swarmed with American servicemen and the contact between them and locals is not always friendly nor harmless. Nurse Kelly Towne (played by Kerry Fox) is more than aware of that, because her job consists of tracking down sources of venereal diseases. Lately an outbreak of particularly virulent and untreatable strain of gonorrhea has been noticed and Towne is determined to find its source. Along the way her investigation gets intertwined with the efforts of US Marine Captain Mike Starwood (played by Tony Goldwyn) who investigates murder of an American serviceman. Two of them join forces and slowly reveal complex web of intrigues and cover-ups involving top American military brass, New Zealand's politicians and powerful labour unions.
Script of The Last Tattoo uses some of the lesser-known details of WW2 in order to provide plot that promises winning combination of film noir, conspiracy thriller and old-fashioned melodrama. However, that promise is not kept. Kerry Fox and Tony Goldwyn play their roles very well and have good chemistry together, but director Reid seems somewhat lost between conflicting genre requirements. As a result, the story, burdened with cliches, doesn't seem to be worthy of such meticulous period reconstruction. The Last Tattoo in the end leaves impression of a movie that had great, but in the end unfulfilled potential.
RATING: 4/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews on June 3rd 2003)
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