Al Shaw (Bruno Lawrence), a former Grand Prix racer, married Jacqui (Anna Jemison), a schoolteacher, in Europe and returned to a small New Zealand town to run his father's car wrecking yard. Sexual enjoyment of each other was the glue holding them together during the early years of their marriage. They also shared an obvious delight in Georgie (Greer Robson), their daughter.

Now after eight years, Jacqui is restless for a change. She wants her husband to sell Smash Palace. Al still devotes most of his time and energy to automobiles — his is tuning up a sports car for a competition and is renovating another for Ray (Keith Aberdein), his best friend who is a policeman.

When Jacqui leaves him and takes Georgie with her, Al feels violated. He kidnaps his daughter at gunpoint and takes her to the bush to celebrate her birthday. But she gets sick and they return to town. Soon Al becomes crazed with jealousy over Jacqui's sexual affair with Ray. He gets back at both of them by holding the policeman hostage and threatening him with death.

Later, after a terrible argument with Jacqui, Al forces himself upon her in their bedroom. But this act of domination does not work. The love she now seeks must include some open space to find out exactly what she is capable of becoming. Jacqui returns to teaching and finds solace in Ray's arms.

In the "Song of Solomon," jealousy is called "cruel as the grave" — a good description. Sexual jealousy, one variation on this volatile emotion, plugs us into two of the oldest, most treacherous of our fears — abandonment and helplessness. These fears animate Al to his hysterical deeds of primitive violence. The ultimate loser in this marital breakup is Georgie — who loves both her parents and has a difficult time coping with their extreme responses to each other.

Smash Palace is another revealing and involving portrait of splitting up. Although the story is set in New Zealand, it has a universal quality to it. Director Roger Donaldson (Sleeping Dogs) draws out very affecting performances from all four lead characters. His very skillful orchestration of the film's kinetic action sequences is a definite plus.