Film review: THE HUNTER from Built for Speed

The tense new Australian thriller The Hunter bears comparison with the George Clooney film from last year, The American.  Both movies have an austere yet engrossing atmosphere and feature professional hit men as a stranger-in-a-strange-land pursuing their quarry while they are themselves pursued. In The Hunter, though, the prey is a little out of the ordinary.

Willem Defoe plays an international soldier of fortune/ assassin who’s recruited by a sinister corporation to capture and kill what they believe is the last remaining Tassie Tiger.  The tiger is apparently worth a fortune to anyone who can clone it or harness its bite toxins.

As Defoe now looks like a sinewy old emu you’d think he would fit right into the Tasmanian wilderness but he immediately attracts suspicion from angry loggers and environmentalists alike. Even more alien to this taciturn loner is the hippy family – mother Frances O ‘Connor and her two little kids – with whom he’s billeted.   An overly-inquisitive local played by Sam Neill also threatens his mission.

Defoe is always a fascinatingly odd screen presence and seeing him lurking around the Tasmanian wilderness makes for an enjoyably weird site.  Defoe is also known for immersing himself in a role and I can just imagine him living in the forest,  chowing down on wallaby entrails to forge his character’s ultra-resourceful Bear Grylls meets McGyver skills.  Frances O’Connor is luminous as always in a small but memorable role while Sam Neill, usually a likeable avuncular presence, has a bit of Wolf Creek menace about him here.

The film’s biggest asset though is its setting in the Tasmanian wilderness which provides not only a stunning backdrop to this story but a character in itself as Defoe constantly wrestles with its unforgiving terrain in pursuit of the tiger.

The film promises a little more than it eventually delivers and resorts to action movie cliches toward the end but quality performances and the stunning Tasmanian vistas make it well worth the experience.

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