The Hunter (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
14Apr/122

The Hunter (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

It's almost eerie how, in so few generations, mankind has managed to internally divorce itself from nature. For those of us who've enlisted in the confines of civilization, the outdoors endures as a ghostly afterthought.

The strongest moments of The Hunter play on the emptiness of the outdoors. Stalking his elusive prey, titular hunter Martin David (Willem Dafoe) begins to himself feel hunted. Small occurrences-- a knotty dirt stained bandanna here, another hunter's trap there-- are hints at the wanderings of others. Their lives are mysteries, as are their possible relations to David's lonely quest.

A faceless multinational corporation has tasked him with a unique opportunity: there have been sightings of a supposedly extinct Tasmanian Tiger. David is to recover the last specimen, remove its venom glands and organs, and destroy the remains. He obliges; that's his job.

LOST. IF FOUND, DO NOT MAKE EXTINCT AGAIN.

What Martin doesn't count on is that he will be staying with a family, containing, not one, but two precocious children and their stuck-in-a-rut mother Lucy (Frances O'Connor). The family's father has recently absconded into the wilderness also looking for the tiger, but his lack of returning has put everyone into a rather dour mood.

Their house is on the edge of the town, which is also where a group of environmentalists and loggers are engaged in a battle of wills. Both sides seems to have some connection to Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), who makes himself a friend to everyone and lurks about in his spare time.

Through his solitary journey, Martin searches for the tiger with a coldly logical system, planting traps and laying bait. That he's doing all of this to entrap what is most likely the last of its species is a question you can see he's mentally avoiding. His divorce from the reality of his situation is what drives most of the plot, and, as his resistance melts, he risks falling prey to hunters himself.

"Hey, kid, you like Go Diego Go?" "..." "You don't talk? At all? I guess you're one step above that Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close kid at least."

The Hunter is fairly solid movie you can't begrudge, but it can't be called out as being very compelling either. Dafoe, as always, is an intense presence, but his character never feels like he develops as the movie wants him to. The film plays like it's supposed to be about his connection to human society against the savagery of a malevolent, faceless world-- whether it be in regards to the circle of life or human greed-- but his grasp never seems as questionable as the movie tries to paint it as.

The rest of the plot is obtuse but slight enough to feel like it would read better in a book. Several important characters get off screen deaths and much of the plot trails off, especially in regards to Mindy's motivations. Themes are emphasized, but become overly pat in conclusion.

The Hunter is solid and full of good, traditional film making, but unexciting and hodgepodge at the same time. When Dafoe feels haunted by the ghosts of the unknown in the Tasmanian wilds, there's something unwaveringly creepy; when it veers off to the story of the cute kids or the battle between the drunk loggers and poop-flinging environmentalists, it's hard not to feel like achingly conventional territory is being retreaded once more.

The Hunter is distractingly close to being great, and, somehow, that's a pretty big letdown.

Posted by Danny

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  1. Hahah nice picture captions! I thought this movie was good because of Dafoe’s performance and the tense feel I got whenever he went into the woods, but the stuff at the house with the family was a little too dry for me and didn’t add up to a whole much. Pretty alright film though. Good review Danny.

  2. Thanks. Yeah, it really seemed to stray close to being a domestic, heartwarming piece, and that really throws off the tone for the rest of it. The kids are just too damn cute.


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