The Hunter had a lot of potential but it tries to do too much and the movie just gets kind of lost, doing little of what it set out to do. Simplicity was the way to go, folks.
old, hard pro Martin David (Dafoe) is employed by a faceless company to hunt the last Tasmanian Tiger, thought extinct since the 30s. Using Lucy Armstrong's (O'Connor) house as a base camp, David, with help from guide Jack (Neill), trudges into the wilderness in search of something that may not exist. When the hunt proves fruitless, David reckons Lucy's little boy, Bike (Woodlock), silent since his father went missing searching for the same tiger, knows more than he's letting on.
f you're calling your movie The Hunter and it's about a hunter hunting an animal everyone thinks is extinct, you can expect long stretches of silence. Isolation. Loneliness. Meticulous tracking. Stitching deep gashes on the move. Beard growing. A Jeremiah Johnson vibe, a man verses nature theme. Grrrrr, etc. There would be plenty of tension to get stuck into – there are the angry locals from the village below who don't take too kindly to strangers in these here parts, and Sam Neill seems to be up to something and of course there is the tiger that may or may not be lurking about. There should be enough there to be getting on with.
owever, Julia Leigh's novel, or Alice Addison's adaptation, just can't find enough for Dafoe to do on the mountain on his tod. He's not two minutes in the wilderness when he's back in Lucy's for a cup of tea. Any chance of some kind of romance brewing between him and Lucy is also nipped in the bud, as he's not finished his tea before he's off to the wild again. So plot nor subplot is given a real chance to get going. Maybe we should be thankful that the romance didn't catch fire as it just wouldn't be believable. When we first see Lucy she's hopped up on downers and can't get out of bed from grief over her missing presumed dead hubby, but the next time we see her she's making eyes at Dafoe and gets thick when he reneges on picnic plans. When The Hunter does succumb to what it should have been with Dafoe finally on the stalk it's too little too late; Addison's screenplay is more interested in the turning of his rough and ready non-person into a cuddly father figure than the manly manliness of it all. Shame.
afoe's great, though. He's got a wonderful face that's perfect for the role – as jagged and imposing as the inhospitable terrain and his surly monosyllabic performance is a winner. Neill is fine, as is O'Connnor, Woodlock and Morgana Davies, playing Bike's foul-mouthed older sister, but this is a one-man show.