' Cinema Romantico: The Hunting Party

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Hunting Party

Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) once was a famed war journalist but suffered a breakdown on camera and has since essentially disappeared. His former cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard) now has a rather plush job as the head cameraman for a famous news anchor. Duck returns to Bosnia where he and Simon once worked for a 5 Year Anniversary Story. But wouldn't you know it, Simon turns up and tells Duck he's got the story to end all stories. He has a "source" who knows where a much-reviled Serbian war criminal is hiding out and he wants to find him. And interview him. Or maybe capture him. Or maybe both. Who knows? Plus, the son of the vice president of the network (Jessie Eisenberg) for whom Duck works overhears this info and tags along.

There are times when you watch a movie and something just doesn't seem right. "The Hunting Party" is one of those times. It feels like something is missing. The film was based on an Esquire Magazine article and you wonder if it never really had a chance. Basing a whole movie on one article? Is there enough to sustain it? I'm sure writer/director Richard Shepherd had to invent things on his own but do those things work?

The Network Vice President's son is nothing more than one of the oldest screenwriting tricks in the book - namely, the character who exists simply to provide information to the audience. If the audience has a question, he asks one of the other characters for us, and we get our answer.

There are, as I recall, at least two Saved-In-The-Nick-Of-Time Moments. Right when we think our main characters are going to bite the bullet someone or something swoops in and saves the day. Except the someone or something isn't really established beforehand and so it feels as if the writer got to those points, realized he didn't have a way out and just dropped a rescuer and/or rescuers in out of the blue.

It goes without saying but, man, I can't stand that crap.

The movie wants to tell us that we're not looking as hard as we claim to be for these hardened war criminals, and that also seems to be the point of the article. But the end (and what is it lately with endings of movies on this blog?) just seems too easy. Shouldn't there have been more buildup? Shouldn't it have been more dramatic and been a whole lot tougher to pull off? Would it have really been that easy? I don't mind the point they're trying to make (and get out of theater the instant the movie ends if you don't want it driven home) but when the story stops working then I have problems. And it just seemed like Shepherd didn't have to go through any sweat and blood to get to the end.

I read somewhere the original title of the movie was "Spring Break in Bosnia" but that it was changed - probably for obvious reasons. I insinuate from that original title the movie had inclinations to be more of a comedy. But a comedy about war criminals? Surely, the studio would have reservations and so maybe what we're seeing isn't exactly what was intended. I don't know. This is all speculation and hearsay. The movie could have been good but it just wasn't.

What I will say in "The Hunting Party's" defense is this - you probably wouldn't think they could work in Chuck Norris, and that even if they could it wouldn't be done well. And you'd be wrong.

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