Starring: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O'Connor
By Greg Klymkiw
This is a movie you want to like while it un-spools, but finally its attributes are meagre. Star Willem Dafoe is the best thing about the picture. He plays a master hunter who takes tough jobs nobody else will - usually for nefarious creeps looking to cash-in on endangered species. For a whole whack of dough he heads into the wilds of Tasmania.
Thought to be extinct, reports have filtered through that one Tasmanian tiger might still exist. He's billeted with a family in the middle of nowhere and sets about his dirty task.
When Dafoe is alone in the wilderness stalking his prey, the movie soars. Alas, there are far too many annoying subplots that get in the way - culled, one assumes, from Julia Leigh's novel upon which the picture is based.
The family he stays with appears to be the reason he starts questioning the morality of what he's doing. Furthermore, he's up against nasty locals who have a major hate-on for the environmentalists who are threaten their livelihood - the clear-cutting of forests - whilst mysterious figures prowl about with malevolent motives to either kill Dafoe and/or kill the tiger - IF it even exists.
Director Daniel Nettheim and screenwriter Alice Addison never adequately juggle all these elements. In fact, the middle of the road plot elements are affixed to what could/should be more intimate. They feel by rote - almost unnecessary.
The "villain" is obvious from the get-go and with all the time the movie takes to dangle a red herring - it's finally all for nought since we know who the scarlet fishy-wishy is anyway and that, worst of all, he's not the real problem.
As such, we always feel annoyed that these elements intrude upon our fascination with Dafoe as he meticulously goes about his "craft" in the wilds.
I know it's not fair to wish the movie was something else, but it would truly have been a much more interesting movie if it had contented itself with being a man against the wilderness story so that Dafoe's turn could instead come from a respect he develops for the tiger - seeing in it something of himself and acting accordingly.
Alas, this is not the movie it is and as such, is the worse for wear because of it.
"The Hunter" is currently in theatrical release via E-One Films.
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