The Hunting Party
dir-scr Richard Shepard
with Terrence Howard, Richard Gere, Jesse Eisenberg, Dylan Baker, Mark Ivanir, Diane Kruger, Ljubomir Kerekec, James Brolin, Joy Bryant, Nitin Ganatra, Goran Kostic, Kristina Krepela
release US 7.Sep.07,
UK 16.Feb.09 dvd
07/US Weinstein 1h41
The Hunting Party
In the line of fire: Gere and Howard

eisenberg kruger brolin
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Hunting Party Lively and smart, with a strong emotional kick, this comical action thriller features some truly outrageous events ("Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true"). But filmmaker Shepard struggles to avoid action and comedy cliches.

Cameraman Duck (Howard) and journalist Simon (Gere) have covered wars together for years, cynically facing the most frenzied battle situations and winning awards in the process. But during the 1994 Bosnia conflict, Simon breaks down due to the sheer brutality of it all. Six years later, Duck is back in Bosnia, accompanied by an eager assistant (Eisenberg), when Simon reappears with a plan to get a $5 million reward for capturing a war criminal (Kerekec). But it's not going to be easy.

The film kicks of at full speed and rarely pauses for breath as it follows this twisty odyssey into the heart of Serbia. The chaotic incidents have the ring of truth about them (the film's based on an Esquire article), and there's an intriguing sense that justice will have to step aside for the anger, bitterness and revenge that's coming. Shepard's script is feisty and smart, with possibly over-sharp banter and vividly hilarious characters along the way. Much of it has a laugh-out-loud, freewheeling tone, lightly balancing the shocking realities with the absurdity of the situation.

So it's a bit frustrating whenever the film takes a false turn, such as when Simon throws a badly needed mobile phone out a car window, or the way they are threatened at gunpoint at every turn, but never seem to be in real danger (we lose count of the last-minute reprieves). And in the end the story drifts into emotional sentimentality as the real reasons for the adventure become increasingly clear.

Even so, the film is raucously entertaining, as Howard, Gere and Eisenberg nicely catches the camaraderie between this steady pro, grizzled vet and nervous rookie. It's also packed with telling, witty touches that bring out the excitement and uncertainty of being a journalist in the right place at the wrong time, and the way we cope with gruesome reality using offhanded humour. But in the end, it's not much more than another action movie with a twinkle in its eye.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.May.08

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall