Martin, a lone mercenary, is hired by a large biotech company to hunt and kill the rumoured last Tasmanian tiger, a species long thought extinct, to harvest its organs and DNA for research purposes. As his mission progresses Martin realises he’s not the first to go after the mysterious creature, at least one other person has gone missing, presumed dead in the attempt, and things only get more complicated as he gets caught, along with a local family, in the middle of a violent dispute between loggers and green activists.
Good Australian films, as with British, are becoming a pretty rare thing in modern multiplexes. Part of the problem is just the sheer quantity of films pouring out of The States, but it also has to be said that the standard of films coming out of Australia (and Britain) simply aren’t of a requisite quality.
This being so, one could be forgiven for approaching The Hunter with little enthusiasm. How refreshing then that this little heard of flick, set in the odd terrain of Tasmania, is actually very good.
Based on a book by Julia Leigh, the concept of The Hunter, from the outside, doesn’t seem incredibly intriguing but from the outset director, Daniel Nettheim, draws you in with the most basic tools of filmmaking; script, shots, actors and editing, all of which are utilised expertly.
It can’t be said to be a slick looking film, in fact it sports that rather earthy look which is common for Australian cinema, but the vast woodland of Tasmania is alien and beautiful and makes for a great backdrop and provides landscape shots as epic as anything Peter Jackson has to offer.
The acting is uniformly excellent, if purposefully pinned down. Willem Dafoe leads the cast as the American hunter with Sam Neill as his Australian liaison, a reliable acting team if ever one has been put together (and not for the first time, remember Daybreakers?), but the lesser-known cast members perform admirably too with the two child actors, who receive a healthy portion of screen time, coming off as naturalistically sweet rather than the nausea inducing sugariness we often get from many American child actors.
The film does hinge on Defoe’s performance though, as extended sections of the narrative consist of his character, Martin, wondering silently around the wilderness alone. For people of this reviewer’s own disposition, who enjoy seeing dudes setting up elaborate woodland traps more than any normal person has a right to, these scenes would have always been entertaining, but Defoe fusses character into every action he takes ensuring that these sections of the film are as gripping as any of the character interplay.
Though the script has a sense of familiarity, it’s still pretty tight and veers just to the left of predictability. As a hunter’s story it would have been entertaining enough, but a few mysteries are thrown into the mix, which add an element of intrigue that takes the enjoyment level up a few notches. At times it looks set to jump on the track of more commercial fare but then it’ll catch you with a sucker punch and heads in a different direction, not unlike the best in Korean cinema.
All in all The Hunter is a good solid movie; a quiet, introspective and entertaining thriller that impresses on almost every level but without ever truly blowing you away.
B- grade – for originality
B grade – for direction
B+ grade – for writing
B+ grade – for acting
Overall grade B+
Watch the Trailer.