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Film Review: Mesmerizing Performance From Willem Dafoe Carries ‘The Hunter’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “The Hunter” is an uniquely mesmerizing film about a man on a complex journey. While the film threatens to fall into cliché (and sometimes hangs on by its fingernails on the precipice of doing so), excellent cinematography and another mesmerizing performance by Willem Dafoe keep it engaging enough to the point that it develops a fascinating rhythm of its own. There’s a lot to like here in this tale of a lonely man, his elusive prey, and the family he meets that gets caught in the middle.

What starts as a relatively simple tale of a Hemingway-esque search by one hired hunter named Martin for a thought-extinct Tasmanian Tiger becomes something almost existential in this unique Australian drama. The great Dafoe plays the title character, a solitary man hired by a biotech company to hunt the tiger for their own genetic research and advancement. He travels to a small Australian town and pretends to be a scientist, lodging with a beautiful woman named Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and her two lovable children. The father of this family went missing months ago and it has left the mother addicted to pills. Between journeys into the mountains, the hunter heals the wounded family but also puts them in danger. There is a lot going on in these woods.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “The Hunter” in our reviews section.

On paper, it might not seem like “The Hunter” has enough plot for a 104-minute movie. And early reviews had me thinking that it would consist of little more than a man, his hunting tools, and a lot of shots of the threatening Australian sky. There is some of that, but much more of the film takes place as a family drama than the title would have you believe. The hunter gets close to the smart, precocious daughter and then, once she’s cleaned up, to the mother. But there’s a sense of dread here, a feeling that something’s not right and things aren’t going to end well. It’s an accomplished piece tonally in that the atmosphere never feels quite safe.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “The Hunter” review.

“The Hunter” stars Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor, Sam Neill, and Morgana Davies. It was written and directed by Daniel Nettheim. It opens at the Landmark Century Cinema in Chicago on April 27, 2012.

The Hunter
The Hunter
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

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