Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review of THE HUNTER (2012)

- Rated R for language and brief violence.
- Starring Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor
- Written by Alice Addison (Original adaptation by Wain Fimeri based on a novel by Julia Leigh)
- Directed by Daniel Nettheim
- Running time: 1hr 41min

Willem Dafoe plays mercenary Martin David.  He is hired by a biotech company to travel to Australia to find a rare Tasmanian Tiger.  He stays at a house deep in the wilderness that is occupied by a woman named Lucy (O'Connor) and her 2 small children.  Her husband hasn't been seen for weeks as he too was searching for the tiger.  The locals don't like Martin so much, including Jack (Sam Neill), a guy who seems to be looking after Lucy and her family.  Martin heads off into the woods for days at a time as he searches for the animal, but when he returns to rest, his relationship with Lucy and the kids grows stronger.  But there are some secrets that are being kept.

The reason why this movie is watchable at all is because of the slow pacing and beautiful photography.  It really enhances the mood and Daniel Nettheim's slick and sure-handed direction give the film a strong sense of style.  Willem Dafoe is good as usual.  His scenes between the kids are charming.  I liked the kids.  The daughter is a foul mouthed sweetheart, and the boy doesn't talk, but seems to know more about the rare animal than most.  The relationship between Martin and Lucy isn't overdone.  It's very low-key and subtle, and that's what this movie needed.  The movie this most reminded me of in tone was THE AMERICAN.  However, this one isn't nearly as good.

I almost liked this.  But Sam Neill's character is a bit muddled up to make total sense.  Also the town folk that hate Martin so much seem too one dimensional for such a realistic movie.  The relationships are the movie's strength, but the storytelling is somewhat lacking.  I know what they were going for.  This was more about the spiritual journey than the actual action plot, but it just doesn't gel.  There was some excitement when another mercenary is sent to replace Martin, but it's too little too late.  The movie doesn't add up to a whole lot.

I didn't hate it.  It's watchable and I enjoyed the look and Dafoe's performance.  I just wish the movie would've relaxed and just let the story flow naturally instead of trying to be arty and sophisticated.

**1/2 (out of ****)

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