By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has been steadily building an incredible Hollywood resume, from Bond villains (Casino Royale) to Nicolas Windig Refn Viking killing machines (Valhalla Rising) to Hannibal Lecter himself (Hannibal). What probably haven’t seen him do yet, though, is play nice.
Unless you’re a fan of the Best Foreign Language Film category, in which case you’re a guy or gal after my own heart.
In The Hunt, he plays a kindergarten teacher (why, that’s almost as ridiculous as Arnold Schwarzenegger playing, I don’t know, a kindergarten cop?) who is accused of child molestation when he gently rejects a youngster’s puppy love (no jokes here). While categorically innocent, it doesn’t take long for suspicion and paranoia to start to tear his life apart.
Approaching the topic of child molestation from this angle is an incredibly delicate line to walk, and screenwriter Tobias Lindholm (a blooming director in his own right) and director Thomas Vinterberg walk it with aplomb. They have an incredible eye for character, and subtle ways to establish it. This is aided by the excellent across the board acting, particularly from Mikkelsen, who is heartbreaking as a man whose world turns against him, struggling to maintain a positive outlook as friend after friend deserts him. Annika Wedderkopp also does what may be the finest child acting of the year, displaying childish anger, capriciousness, and innocence all at the drop of a hat.
It’s easy to see why this film was polarizing to some, although surprisingly not for its subject matter. This is hands-down one of the most intense, emotional, and absolutely infuriating movies I have ever seen. My wife and I straight up yelled at the screen a few times, and I don’t see how you couldn’t. The reason for this is the utter lack of a Hollywood plot or villain to channel your fury against. Just like Mikkelsen’s character, Lucas, these are all good people, but due to a preponderance of ignorance, misunderstanding, stigma, hastiness, and gossip, they all turn against him, even and especially his friends, and even begin to persecute what they see as the devil in their midst (never mind when the police officially clear him of accusation). This, along with a stunning ending, almost make you lose faith in people, especially when it’s all so incredibly plausible.
Shit, if you sold this as the story of a man who has all empathy for people relentlessly beat out of him, until he decides to “hunt” down and kill people for the pure joy of it after moving to the U.S. and changing his name to something more catchy, like, say, Hannibal Lecter, I’d buy it.
Hey, it’s a better origin story than Hannibal Rising, anyway.
The one character beat I had to cry foul on, and it’s a shame because the rest of the film is so incredibly natural feeling, is how quickly his boss, Grethe, goes from disbelieving to hateful to, umm, calling his ex-wife on the phone to let her know personally about the accusations so that she can prevent their son from moving in with Dad? Uh, who the fuck does that?
The Hunt is an incredibly well-acted, well-directed, and utterly infuriating slice of human cynicism. Can’t recommend it enough.
Take a Drink: anytime there’s actual hunting
Take a Drink: every time Hannibal-err, Mikkelsen plays with kids
Take a Drink: every time Kirsten is mentioned by name
Take a Drink: whenever your own rage boils over
Do a Shot: any time something sexually inappropriate or just plain odd interpersonally happens
Do a Shot: I just have one thing to say…