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Willem Dafoe in "The Hunter."

Matt Nettheim, Magnolia Pictures

THE HUNTER

1/2 out of four stars

Rating: R for violence, language and sexual content.

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'The Hunter' could use a compass

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT
  • May 3, 2012 - 2:42 PM

Well, at least it isn't formulaic. Willem Dafoe plays Martin, a professional who tracks a rare predator while slowly realizing his biotech employers have ensnared him in dirty business. His prey is the last known example of the Tasmanian tiger, and the Australian island's wilderness is expertly shot by Australian TV director Daniel Nettheim.

Nettheim is weaker on suspense. The mystery goes slack as the film trudges on. Martin rents space in a rural home for his base camp, and his involvement with the owner (Frances O'Connor) and her inquisitive kids (Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock) begins to take precedence over his quest. Even Dafoe can't make us believe that a cold-blooded mercenary would change his spots so quickly.

Nor can his brooding intensity fill the long, slow, silent stretches when he examines tracks, sets traps, calibrates his gunsight.

There's a spasm of irony when local loggers mistake the animal killer for a hated "greenie" ecologist, but little comes of it. It's all intended to be darkly metaphorical. In actuality, it's a mediocre film unfolding without plan, purpose or enthusiasm.

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