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The new year is upon us, fellow Fangorians—a time of new
beginnings, new experiences and, for some of us, new straight-to-DVD movies to
review. However, rather like the morning after a night spent guzzling cheap champagne,
THE HUNTERS (Lionsgate) is a bad hangover of a movie, starring Steve Waddington
(SLEEPY HOLLOW, LAST OF THE MOHICANS) and GLEE’s Dianna Agron, along with Chris
Briant, who also directed.
THE HUNTERS is the story of four friends who are miserably
stuck in their everyday, run-of-the-mill lives. Waddington plays Ronny, a
likable family man who’s having trouble acknowledging his dark side. His best
friend Oliver (Tony Becker, resembling a younger Mike Ditka here) is a computer
repairman who takes crap from his superiors and ignores his wife. The only
place these two men and their two younger buddies (Jay Brown and Xavier
Delambre) are truly at home is when they’re hunting at Fort Goben, a forbidding
structure of cold stone and moss surrounded by dark woods. Meanwhile, police
station bureaucrat Le Saint (Briant) and a young couple about to go to college
(Agron and Philip Correia) also somehow wind up at the mysterious fort, where
all hell is about to break loose.
What follows is a confusing mess of a film with little to no
narrative structure and shoddy character development. While there’s an
interesting twist or two, the script by Michael Lehman (no relation to the
HEATHERS director) is so scatterbrained that whatever impact they might have
had is lost. The characters are poorly written; one minute they’re sane, the
next they’re psychotic, while others leave at the beginning of the film only to
pop up toward the end for no reason. Case in point: Agron has maybe five
minutes of screen time, even though her pretty face dominates the DVD cover in
an attempt to lure potential viewers with the ol’ bait-and-switch routine (some
things never change). It’s as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide on whose story
to tell or which leads to focus on, so they just threw it all together,
creating an uneven cut-and-paste job.
One character who seemingly can’t get enough screen time—not
surprisingly given who plays him—is Le Saint. Though Briant kind of resembles a
French Jamie Kennedy, he does a serviceable job in the role. However, the very
last scene is unintentionally hilarious with its self-referencing credit cue,
leading one to believe that Briant fancies himself a real bad-ass. While THE
HUNTERS is beautifully shot by DP John B. Aronson (whose credits include TV’s
HEROES, AMERICAN HORROR STORY and the new RED TAILS), his talents are, for the
most part, wasted here. Some of the violence is gruesome and effective, but the
gunfights are ridiculous—for instance, when bullets hit trees, they spark,
leaving you with flashbacks of a bad WALKER, TEXAS RANGER episode.
The DVD’s making-of segment proves more interesting than the
movie itself, showing the camaraderie among the cast and crew, particularly the
hunters. At one point, Waddington goes on about how great he thought the screenplay
was, leading one to speculation that either the shooting script was changed
dramatically, or that the actor’s brains are still fried from the time he got
burned alive by Huron tribesmen before Daniel Day-Lewis showed up. The actors
are all likable here, even star/director Briant, who talks about the
“connection” he felt with Agron after his initial meeting with the actress.
(He’s French, what can ya do?) There’s no commentary here to let the filmmakers
clue us in on what went wrong, only this featurette that makes one wish the
movie were better.
To sum up, THE HUNTERS is a mind-numbing mess that aims for
the bull’s-eye but doesn’t even hit the target, leaving viewers scratching
their heads and wanting their 111 minutes (!) back. Perhaps Jean-Claude Van
Damme said it best in the far superior action classic HARD TARGET: “Hunting
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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