'The Hunter' Review: Sprawling Story Can't Drag Dafoe Down

If a movie is going to brood, there are probably few better places to do it than the misty forests and mountains of Tasmania. And what better actor to do the brooding than Willem Dafoe, whose chiseled features are by now an emblem of stony concern.

Unfortunately, "The Hunter," a new movie from Australia, gives us a few too many things to brood about—the film is a mystery, a thriller, and a (tepid) romance, as well as a tale of spiritual redemption and a cautionary instruction about the incursions of industry into the pristine natural world. I haven’t read the Julia Leigh novel on which it’s based, but the movie, often gorgeous to watch, is hobbled by plot sprawl.

Dafoe plays Martin David, a “mercenary” of some unspecified sort who has been hired by a shadowy biotech company to fly to Tasmania, the island state off the Australian mainland, and bag a Tasmanian tiger, possibly the last of its kind. This “tiger” (actually a meat-eating marsupial with a rather doglike head) carries a toxin for which the company perceives a lucrative military use. It’s just another job for David, and he goes right to work, posing as a university zoological researcher.

His contact in Tasmania is a sketchy character named Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), who lodges David—rather oddly, I thought—in the woodsy home of Lucy Armstrong (Frances O’Connor), who lives there with her husband and two children. The husband—an environmental activist and bane of the local logging operation, which he has been striving to shut down—is nowhere to be seen when David arrives. It was he who claimed to have spotted the tiger, a species long thought extinct; he set out in search of it some months earlier, and has yet to return.

Read the full review at Reason.com


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