MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Every now and then, I stumble across a movie that is hard to compartmentalize. “The Hunter” can be many things, and no matter how it gets summarized, it’s not at all accurate to the film’s tone. On the surface, from a plot standpoint, “The Hunter” appears to be about a man on a mission, but there’s much more to it. A lot of the greater themes in the film are very subtle and linger in the background, making the movie more than its relatively simple plot.
In “The Hunter,” Willem Dafoe plays Martin David, a mercenary who is hired by a mysterious company to track a suspected Tasmanian tiger, which is thought to be extinct, in the wild. He poses as a scientist and lives with a local family who is pushing the conservation of the land. Martin learns that the local loggers have been at violent odds with the conservationists because jobs are on the line, and they may be responsible for the death of the family’s father, who disappeared after searching for the Tasmanian tiger himself. As Martin delves deeper and deeper into his mission, he bonds with the family and faces new dangers in the wild and where he’s staying.
The trailers make the film look like a suspense thriller, with a cat-and-mouse game between Martin and his unseen quarry. However, in reality, the film is a story of Martin’s redemption. It’s not a neat package, and the film goes in some ambiguous directions.
Willem Dafoe carries the film well, showing a man with a troubled past who is softened by the family he is staying with. Wrapped around this is his own guilt of deception and his past, and that’s where the meat of the movie is. Dafoe is the hero, but he’s also his own villain.
The rest of the cast is strong as well, and not just the known quantities of Sam Neill as Martin’s contact to the area and Frances O’Connor as the widow he’s staying with. In particular, Morgana Davies as the precocious daughter does a fine job going head-to-head with Dafoe the actor.
“The Hunter” isn’t a straightforward film, but it is a thought-provoking one. I can’t say I was very warm to everywhere it went, but it was an interesting ride nonetheless.
The Blu-ray comes with a commentary track with director Daniel Nettheim and producer Vincent Sheehan. There’s also the theatrical trailer and deleted scenes with commentary. The most meaty element on the behind-the-scenes menu is the rather lengthy “Making of The Hunter,” which is broken into four parts: The Story, The Characters, Tasmania and The Tiger.