Cinema Review: The Hunter

life thru a lens
DIR: Daniel Nettheim WRI: Alice Addison, Wain Fimeri PRO: Vincent
Sheehan DOP: Robert Humphreys ED: Rolland Gallois DES: Steven
Jones-Evans Cast: Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Connor, Morgana
Davies, Finn Woodlock

A regular contributor to Australian television, The Hunter is director
Daniel Nettheim’s second foray into feature filmmaking after 2000’s
Angst, a New South Wales-set black comedy that was little seen outside
of his native country.

Much the same could have been said about his new film, staged in the
Tasmanian state capital of Hobart, which initially went on release in
Australia last September. However, ten months on, The Hunter has been
afforded a release in foreign territories, under the distribution of
Artificial Eye.

Having gone for relative unknowns when making Angst, Nettheim has
opted for a more high-profile cast for The Hunter, with reliable
Antipodeans Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill (who originally hails from
Omagh, County Tyrone) supporting the charismatic Willem Dafoe as
Martin David, a mercenary hunter hired by a military biotech company
to track the sightings of a Tasmanian Tiger, previously thought to be

While in Tasmania, he stays in the Armstrong household, where
O’Connor’s Lucy lives with her two children (Morgana Davies and Finn
Woodlock). She has taken to prescription medication since the
disappearance of her environmentalist husband eight months earlier.
She has been aided in that time by local man Jack Mindy (Neill), who
offers himself as a guide to David, who is moonlighting as a college
professor searching for Tasmanian Devils.

As the film develops we see David evolving from an isolated figure to
someone who feels a deep connection with the Armstrong family, to the
point that he stands up for them against the tyranny of the local
loggers, who have had their differences with Lucy’s husband, Jarrah,
in the past.

Martin David is a complex and multi-layered character, and is
brilliantly rendered here by Dafoe who is on the very top of his game,
giving hidden depths to David at vital junctures in the narrative.
Though he has some clunkers on his CV (Speed 2: Cruise Control, Body
of Evidence, this year’s John Carter), he has also made some truly
unforgettable films, notably Platoon, American Psycho, Wild at Heart
and To Live and Die in L.A.

The Hunter doesn’t quite fit into that category, and it doesn’t have
the power of Animal Kingdom, another recent Australian production to
make it onto these shores, but it is certainly a worthy addition to
his already substantial filmography.

Though there was the temptation to make this a ‘man versus beast’
adventure like The Grey, The Edge, or even Razorback, Nettheim wisely
nods it in the direction of Anton Corbijn’s The American, and there
are many similarities between Dafoe’s David and George Clooney’s Jack
from Corbijn’s sophomore effort.

Special praise should also be reserved for Cinematographer Robert
Humphreys, who captures the Hobart landscape quite beautifully, while
Nettheim shows his knack for squeezing believable performances from
his cast, with O’Connor (who worked with Steven Spielberg on the
underrated A.I. Artificial Intelligence), Neill and youngster Davies
providing good support to Dafoe.

Though it does become slightly muddled around the middle-third, The
Hunter does nevertheless succeed on a number of levels, and will be a
must-see for fans of Dafoe’s captivating intensity.

Daire Walsh 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
101m 35s
The Hunter is released on 6th July 2012

The Hunter – Official Website

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