Director: Daniel Netthiem
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Mrogana Davies, Sam Neill
Year Released: 2011
The Hunter revolves around Martin David (Willem Dafoe) as he searches for a Tasmanian Tiger in the wilderness of, where else but Tasmania. All the while he is developing feelings for his hostess and her small children.
I am a huge Willem Dafoe fan, from Platoon to Boondock Saints, from Shadow of the Vampire to Spiderman I have loved every performance he has given. He is one of few actors today that can play a secondary role in indie films or large productions and make you remember him when the movie is over. I often remember his performance more than I remember the lead actor. I was excited to see that he was going to play what I assumed was going to be a badass character in an action/suspense movie. Sadly, I was going to be disappointed, very disappointed. Willem Dafoe is a far better peripheral character than he is a lead.
First off, the movie suggests that Martin David is a mercenary tasks with tracking down a thought to be extinct animal in the Tasmanian wilderness. The problem is, at no point in the movie does Martin act in a manner that one would assume a mercenary would. He comes across more like a second string animal tracker that hunts part time. He does not skirt society nor does he make any effort to blend in and not be noticed (granted, the setting doesn’t allow for exactly that, but he could have at least tried). He demands his presence be known and seemingly for no other reason than to complicated his ultimate task.
The hunt for a Tasmanian Tiger is interesting and has a lot of basis in reality. It seems that there are a number of groups around the world working to create the material needed to bring the extinct animal back into existence. While that is not the point of Martin being tasked with locating the animal, it probably should have been, it is still a very interesting premise for the story and actually mentioned at one point.
The problem is, there has not been a confirmed sighting of the animal since the early 1930’s and after 50 years of no activity, it is classified as an extinct animal. So, perhaps the movie should have taken place in the 70’s when there was still some potential for believing a Tasmanian Tiger was out there. It would not have taken anything away from the movie at all, except for the use of a computer there are no suggestions of current technology and even the computer could have been replaced with books or audio.
Frances O’Connor does a decent job of playing the depressed wife of a missing man (her husband was working to stop people from finding the Tiger) and mother of 2 young children. She plays a minor role, but her presence is enough to humanize Martin to the point that he stops even trying to be a believable character.
Sam Neill is Sam Neill, underwhelming but fills his role as well as anyone could have. He plays the good intentioned friend of the family that ends up having some skeletons in his closet.
Morgana Davies on the other hand, does an excellent job of playing the big sister and thorn in Martin’s side for the first half of the movie. She impressed me with her line delivery and seemingly genuine reaction to situation throughout the entire movie.
There is little action to be found, far too many moments of sweeping landscapes and little in the way of suspense. I can see that Tasmania is a beautiful of backward place and more time could have been spent creating characters that are as dynamic as the wilderness they live in as there was time spent showing me that world.
SPOILER ALERT: When Martin finally does uncover the secret of the movie- Sass’ father is dead and Jack ins a bad guy, Martin is allowed to locate the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger. He has it in his gun sight and hesitates for a moment before pulling the trigger. The Tiger looks at him before that last moment and in its poorly rendered CGI form you can see a hint a resignation. Martin comes to the corpse and breaks down crying. A far cry from a mercenary. Even if I were to say that his killing the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger was a reflection of the loss of his own humanity and therefore more about his own death than the animal’s, it would be a stretch and not supported by the rest of the movie.
Do yourself a favor and skip this movie. Catch up on far better Willem Dafoe movies, keep an eye out for Morgana Davies and do some research on the Tasmanian Tiger (which wasn’t actually a tiger). All three of those activities are far better options.