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Home Reviews Cinema reviews Film review: The Hunter
Film review: The Hunter Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 08:29
Willem Dafoe, The Hunter
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies, Frances O’Connor, Finn Woodlock
Certificate: 15

Everyone forgets about Willem Dafoe. Even after Spider-Man, ask someone to name the best actors around and old Willem seems to slip to the bottom of the list. But he’s been popping up in movies for years, always putting in a brilliant performance. Sometimes with an awesome beard to match. The Hunter is no exception.

Martin (Dafoe) is a mercenary. He owns a gun. He is hired by a shady company to take his gun to a remote Australian village and hunt down the probably-extinct Tasmanian Tiger. And then shoot it. And bring back its precious, rare DNA-filled innards.

Why? For (evil) science reasons. More importantly, do the locals suspect what he's up to? Lucy (O’Connor) and her kids (the super-adorable Davies and Woodlock) are too busy wondering where they dad disappeared to. He used to poke about in the wilderness all the time. Grumpy Uncle Sam Neill, on the other hand, is much more suspicious. (He knows all about the danger of cloning extinct creatures.)

And so Willem sets off, backpack in tow, pretending to research Tasmanian devils - no, not that one. As tensions brew back home, Daniel Nettheim’s thriller soon settles into a quiet rhythm of trees, bear traps, and slow walking. In between, Willem Dafoe bonds with the children and listens to opera. And every now and then he takes a bath.

An isolated creature in the middle of nowhere with no emotional connection to the people around him? There’s no prize for realising that while hunting the elusive tiger, Willem Dafoe is really searching for himself, but Alice Addison’s script (adapted from Julia Leigh’s novel) is smart enough to leave it unsaid – like The American or Drive, we rely on our lead's taciturn talent to communicate the hard stuff. And with Dafoe on magnetic form, plus nicely ambiguous turns from both Neil and O’Connor, The Hunter's bare bones storytelling soon sinks its claws in.

Beautifully lensed by Robert Humphreys and gently unassuming, it’s an existential drama that shirks a feel-good emotional catharsis for something more effective; a gripping reminder of just how much one man can achieve with a stick, a gun and a beard. The Hunter may not stay in the memory for many months, but you certainly won’t be forgetting about Willem Dafoe any time soon.

  • daniel nettheim
  • finn woodlock
  • frances o’connor
  • morgana davies
  • sam neill
  • the hunter
  • willem dafoe