October 6, 2011
United States (English)
Written and Directed by Daniel Nettheim (Based on the book by Julia Leigh)
"The Hunter" gives us plenty of pretty to look at but not enough to ponder throughout. Dafoe and company give good work in this slow Aussie adventure.
After a decade of directing Australian TV shows Daniel Nettheim has made his sophomore feature film effort, "The Hunter." Martin David, a professional American hunter played by Willem Dafoe, has waited in Paris for a week to receive a special assignment. We learn that the man doesn't belong in fancy hotels or cities. The wild is his element. Red Leaf, a military biotech tasks Martin with a simple task: hunt down the Tasmanian Tiger (in Tasmania, where else?) and acquire its samples. This turns out to be more of a "mission impossible" as that species is presumed to be extinct. Rumored sightings are all he has to go on.
With a premise so clear that a child could comprehend "The Hunter" is an adult-centered drama as the title character keeps mostly to himself. He interacts with the locals only as needed, most are unwelcoming. When Martin ends up renting the spare room of a family whose patriarch recently went missing in the very wilderness he plans to explore, he begins to warm up to the children and then their mother (Frances O'Connor). Dafoe and O'Connor have some lovely scenes together, the kind where the adults hang around while the children play around.
Sweeping panoramas of this infinitely beautiful country are scattered throughout. Martin's treks are mostly quiet adventures. He needs the breaks from civilization as much as we do. I admire the transparent onset of "The Hunter," but overused devices stale the adventure. We get the "tough guy vs. newcomer" in the bar scene (twice), a wise child to lead our protagonist on the way, and a "family friend" we can see through from the very beginning. When stripped down to Dafoe and the elements "The Hunter" hits the mark.
CONTENT: some strong language and brief violence