The Hunter (2011) | Film review
Willem Dafoe plays a brooding mercenary searching for a nearly extinct breed of tiger.
A man searches for the Tasmanian tiger, “the rarest, most elusive creature on the planet.” The venom it secretes could be incredibly valuable, but only to a company that holds exclusive rights. So a military biotech firm hires mercenary Martin David (Willem Dafoe) to find the last living tiger, retrieve a few DNA samples and kill it so others can’t get their hands on it. During his trip to Tasmania, the previously fastidious Martin—who, like all hired killers, spends most of his downtime quietly brooding and carefully arranging his toiletries—is forced to bunk with a mother (Frances O’Connor) and her two rambunctious kids (Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock). Do you think they’ll warm Martin’s icy heart? Dunno, is the Tasmanian tiger nearly extinct?
Adapted from a novel by Australian writer Julia Leigh (who made her filmmaking debut with last year’s Sleeping Beauty), The Hunter feels like a kind of movie that’s gone nearly extinct as well: slow, subtle genre entertainment geared toward adults willing to expend a little mental energy between action beats. Director Daniel Nettheim gets a bit heavy-handed with the symbolism at times, and he piles on ecological messages more strongly than he needs to; no verbal argument for conservation could ever be half as persuasive as the film’s stunning images of Tasmania. Still, The Hunter boasts several impressive suspense sequences and a mature, sinewy performance from Dafoe. Those last two adjectives could describe the movie itself. (Available on VOD; see magsneaks.com for details.)