By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Most of you probably know the Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Tunes version- a bastard creature of indeterminate heritage fixated on destruction and yowling nonsense grunts and screams whoever it crosses paths with. So, basically young Ozzy Osbourne sans shark.
I’m goin off the rails on a crazeee trainnnnn!
The real thing is just as furious and yowly, and thousands of years of divergent evolution thanks toTasmania’s remote location have shaped it into one of the most interesting predators around . It has the strongest bite per body mass unit of any mammal, and now weighs in as the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, a title it nabbed from the Tasmanian Tiger after its official extinction in 1936. Now, due to disease, it is itself endangered. What does this have to do with the movie, you ask? Not a whole hell of a lot, actually. I just think they’re goddam interesting.
The Hunter instead fixates on its extinct cousin, as a professional bounty hunger of the animal world (Willem Dafoe) is tasked with hunting down the now mythic Tasmanian Tiger for a shadowy pharma company when one is reportedly spotted. He clashes with both sides of the local divide- rough logger locals and “Greenie” activists, but finds something like a home with his host family, stepping into the space vacated by the man of the house when he disappeared in the same area he’s now hunting in. The peace he finds doesn’t last long, as all of those competing interests head for a collision.
Not exactly, and with more questionable tandem bathing
Chances are you don’t know a lot aboutTasmania. I certainly didn’t, so the setting alone deserved toasting. The rough edges of living on the edge of wilderness contrast with the beauty of that wild itself, asTasmaniaboasts landscape rivaling its Middle Earth-inspiring sibling,New Zealand.
The drama in the film, mostly hinging on this gruff loner finding a cause and a family to fight for, is strong, and the scene where he symbolically steps in for the absent father and husband is as strong as I’ve seen in any film this year. You also have to applaud a film that is willing to skip narrative convention and go straight to some dark places.
Dafoe does a good job selling that scene, and is his usual excellent self throughout the film. The long absent from the spotlight Sam Neill also does strong work, going above and beyond his usual Harrison Ford-lite work to play a local guide with a secret.
Although it looks like he kept his hat from Jurassic Park
For such a novel setting and concept, too much of this film feels awfully familiar. If this was in the toast section, I would say The Hunter was a transplanted deconstruction of the classic Western lone gunslinger tale a la Shane. As admirable as that is, little details like the evil pharma company, f-bomb dropping local child, and sneering “we don’t like yur kind here!” locals came off a bit too cliché for my tastes. It doesn’t ruin anything, but it does take you out of the film at times.
Speaking of taking you out of the moment, nothing does in a film quite like shoddy CGI. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it, and it’s obviously unavoidable, but I couldn’t help but reach for my beer because of it.
This is a beautiful, unique little film with some great performances and some of those Tasmanian Devils every once in awhile. Give it a watch.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Sam Neill spouts off some Tasmanian aphorism
Take a Drink: whenever someone acts hostile or suspicious
Drink a Shot: whenever you see Tasmanian Tiger footage