The Hunter * * * 1/2

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Director: Daniel Nettheim.
Screenplay: Wain Fimeri, Alice Addison.
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Sullivan Stapleton, Callan Mulvey, Jacek Koman.

Willem Dafoe is one of those actors that despite possessing a recognisable name in cinema still isn’t afraid to take on projects that are in danger of being unrecognised. He’s worked with some of my favourite director’s in David Lynch, Lars von Trier and Wes Anderson and yet always finds the time to be involved in lesser known works. This is another example of that.

A biotech corporation hires hunter Martin David (Willem Dafoe) to track down the, believed to be extinct, Tasmanian tiger. He finds board with a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her two children who’s father has disappeared in the hills, hunting the same animal. As David delves further into the hunt, he realises that all is not as it seems and his employers, the locals and a tracker (Sam Neill) have other plans for him.

The premise of this film about the hunt for the last known Tasmanian tiger is intriguing enough but it grips even more because of the finely tuned, low-key atmosphere; the indulgence in some beautiful sweeping landscapes and a lead actor that has character written all over his rugged face. From the opening alone, it’s apparent that this film is in no rush and seemingly revels in it’s methodical approach. Now, that’s not normally a problem for me. In fact, I welcome it but when the film hints at a further depth without fully providing it then I begin to feel disappointment creeping in. There are themes of man’s relationship with nature and environmental issues going on underneath it all somewhere but the deeper you dig, you realise it’s not that profound. Yet, on the surface it would have you believe it is. That’s not to say that there’s not plenty to admire here. There is; it has a decent – if underdeveloped -conspiracy thriller element and it’s more than competently shot with beautiful cinematography and another solid performance from Dafoe to add to his growing canon. Most of the weight is on his shoulders and he carries it well but despite a very good performance, I wasn’t entirely convinced about his characters actions. On the one hand, he was very kind and concerned and the other, uncaring and cold. I think the fault with this lies with the script. His character isn’t fleshed out enough leaving him enigmatic. Maybe this was intentional but I just took his character to be muddled, giving off mixed messages and never fully allowing me to identify with him. The rest of the characters came off even less developed which would leave you to believe that this air of mystery amongst them was part of it all. If so, it just didn’t work for me.

It shares similar themes to “The Grey” before it, in terms of man versus nature and even in it’s attempts at a philosophical approach. I enjoyed it but I expected a little more profundity.

Mark Walker

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18 Responses to “The Hunter * * * 1/2”

  1. Ooooh. Profundity! :D Now THAT’S a word.

    I’ll give you the fact that the “conspiracy” element is underdeveloped, but I didnt have any issues with Dafoe’s character. I thought he was consistent and pretty well written. We’re certainly not given any backstory to him, he’s more than a little bit of a blank slate…. but he’s still a good character, I thought. And of course, Dafoe is great in the role.

    • Lol. Profundity or the lack thereof. ;-)

      Yeah, Dafoe was superb but a little back story would have been good. Not much, just a little. He seemed to be a kind and caring man but yet could kill without reservation. Without giving too much away for those that haven’t seen it. I thought the ending became a bit formulaic and a bit of stretch for his character. As I say, it would have made sense had we been given a little of what made him tick or why he became so attached.

  2. It’s a good film, but nothing all that special. The strongest element of this flick is probably Dafoe and with good reason, because the guy can take any performance, make it his own, and make us love him, even if he is playing a villainous dude like Norman Osborne.

    • I agree. It was good but could have been better had they explored things a little deeper and Dafoe is the man. I’m a big fan of his and it was great to see him in a role where he’s rarely off screen.

  3. you have written enough for me to give this a look, anything with Norman Osbourne and the polar bear from the bird’s eye ad has gotta be worth a look. concise review again sir!

  4. Sam Fragoso Says:

    I’m not a Will Ferrell enthusiast, but Anchorman is good fun (sad you didn’t care for it).

    Also, the fact that you were acting out as a 16 year old while watching Trainspotting, a film about a bunch of reckless kids/young men, is perfect.

    Enjoying your site thus far Mark. Working my way through your past columns.

    • Sam Fragoso Says:

      That comment was for your confessions post. Sorry about that one.

    • Glad to see you stopping by Sam. I’ll have a gander around your establishment when I get a chance. I notice your involved in the consensus also. Hope to chat more over there soon.
      Yeah, Ferrell’s just not my thing. I’ve tried but ultimately failed.
      The Trainspotting deal was quite a scenario right enough. I feel like a bit of a tit now though lol.

  5. Great review. At least Dafoe is always dependable.

    • Thanks Fernando. It’s always nice to see you stop by. Yeah, not a bad film. In fact, it good but Dafoe is the best thing about it. It’s not a flashy performance but he rarely off screen and delivers well.

  6. I’m intrigued by this one. On the one hand, I love Dafoe and I’m a bit of a wannabe crytozoologist, so I like Tasmanian Tigers but the film doesn’t seem to have enough “meat” to it for me to really love. Still, if you think it’s worthy of 3 1/2, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it a fair bit, Mark!

  7. Yes, great review (as usual to the point )). I was pleasantly surprised by this film – I thought there would be much more meaningless ‘action’ than there actually was (well seeing Dafoe ‘ready for action’ on the poster). I do agree that the plot leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the character of Dafoe is mysterious. With most other films these ‘faults’ will probably hurt a film’s merit, but, I thought, not in this case. Far from it, these ‘drawbacks’ regarding plot makes one focus on actors’ play and beautiful cinematography in general and it all works well. I think that is what makes this film so special, unusual, intriguing, thought-provoking, much more ‘artistic’. I would not have want it any other way :)
    Besides I think ‘Shame”s plot has as many ‘holes’ in it and as much character’ ‘underdevelopment’, but I think it does not hurt the film in the least.

    • Yeah, I did like this but was hoping for something a little deeper. That’s what I was expecting going it. I thought Dafoe was wonderful and I normally like enigmatic characters but something just didn’t click with me. A lot of his actions were completely unexplained. Maybe, I was judging the character too harshly though. As much as I enjoyed this, I suspect I’d probably appreciate it even more on a second viewing. Thanks for swinging by to check this out.

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