The Hunters DVD Review
Directed by Chris Briant
Written by Michael Lehman
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 111 minutes, Rated 18(UK)
DVD released on January 9th 2012
Steven Waddington as Ronny
Tony Becker as Oliver
Dianna Agron as Alice
Terence Knox as Bernard
Jay Brown as Stephen
Five manly men living dead-end lives take off to the local woodlands as they rediscover meaning in their existences. Wounded ex-soldier-cum-police bureaucrat Le Sant investigates a spate of disappearances around the chaps' hunting grounds, despite his surly boss's insistence otherwise. And then there's Alice, who inspires a blossoming sense of hope in his life. Fates become intertwined as Le Sant's investigations take him far deeper than he could ever have expected.
For the first forty minutes, The Hunters is a slow exercise in restraint and an exploration of the testosterone-fueled mind. All of the characters seem sympathetic, if not relatable. The plot essentially comes about from a gang of men having the mother of all mid-life crises. In its musings on the trapped male mind – adrift in a future that no longer values the hunter gatherer type – The Hunters would invite comparison with such films as The Deer Hunter, crossed with Hostel 2. It's a film that takes the time to let us get to know its villains before we fully condemn them.
It's an approach that works remarkably well. When The Hunters finally becomes the action thriller you'd expect from such a title, an emotional investment has been made in the characters. I was really rooting for unlikely hero Le Sant by the end. It's rare to see an action thriller devote its time to characterisation and motive as The Hunters does, and the film is so much better for it. That said, the initially slow pace and lack of direction in the first forty minutes will put some off. The closest thing to conflict in the build-up is a man being shouted at for not fixing a computer properly.
Sadly, not all of the characters are as well drawn as Le Sant and the two head hunters. Love interest Alice remains underdeveloped in a film full of macho men. Terence Knox's shouty police chief is the worst of the lot, a hackneyed character with a rather predictable role in the story. The acting is generally good, although Knox and Phillip Corriea's performances seem one-dimensional when compared to the solid character work by the other cast members. Stephen Waddington and Tony Becker do a fine line in looking haunted (the latter has some exceptionally sad eyes) whilst actor/director Chris Briant makes a fantastically sympathetic protagonist.
The action during the last half of the film really makes up for the earlier slow pace; a thrilling series of shootouts and fistfights. Unfortunately, there's a tremendous amount of coincidence required to get all of the characters in the same place at the same time – particularly the late-stage arrival of two of the more inconsequential characters. This bit of shoddy storytelling can't help but hold The Hunters back from being properly great.
But it is a solid, tense and intelligent thriller with characters to care about and a story that's a cut above the usual backwoods horror nonsense. Well worth hunting down.
Video and Audio:
Good quality on both counts, particularly during the more nightmarish sequences.
A fifteen minute featurette documents the making of the film. Of particular interest is the revelation that The Hunters is actually a French/European movie made with an English speaking cast to help it reach a wider audience. It's to Briant's testament that you can't tell. Otherwise, it's pretty standard 'making of' stuff.