The Hunting Party on DVDIntro

An able cast tells a story that is almost too insane not to believe.

The Story

Mostly based on an article written for Esquire magazine titled ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’, Richard Gere plays the stubborn and disgraced journalist Simon Hunt. Hunt spent many years covering wars around the world with his cameraman, Duck (Terrence Howard). After Hunt has a breakdown on national television while covering the slaughter in a small Bosnian village he is fired from television and begins a slow downward slide into obscurity while Duck is promoted with a plush job in New York.

Fast forward five years and Duck is back in Bosnia to cover the five year anniversary of the end of the civil war in Bosnia, Duck is teamed up with a young journalist fresh out of college (Jesse Eisenerg) when Hunt appears out of nowhere with the lead of a lifetime claiming that he knows how to find one of the most wanted war criminals in the country. Thus the hunt begins to find one of the most wanted men with a $5 million bounty.

Good and the Bad

“Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true”, that is the phrase that greets you upon the start of the film and I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to start this film. As mentioned, the film is based on an article written by Scott Anderson about five journalists who actually did try to pull off this very stunt and capture Radovan Karadicz.

Written and directed by Richard Shepard, this film is one of the most difficult movies to classify released within the last few months. What starts as a sly drama that isn’t afraid to take political pot shots and ask questions of organizations and leaders that they feel deserve it, quickly and quietly will weave into dark political comedy and then back again without so much as a notice. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.

For the first thirty minutes of the film, the film is very quiet and understated. Making jokes wherever possible, the first act spends a lot of time going over the history and back story of the characters while also keeping us in the war zone as much as possible. The bodies and blood during this first act caught me off guard but I never found the violence to be overly graphic but the very subtle attempts at humor during this first act were grossly misplaced and while I often found myself chuckling at some of the jokes, most of the time I was far more concerned with the devastation that was on the screen.

Then the big reveal behind Hunt’s breakdown is shown and the film becomes entirely new. Gere plays a very difficult role in this film, difficult because Hunt is just fundamentally unlikable. He has many great qualities that you would want in a journalist but in a person, the character was very difficult to root for. One scene is all it takes to convert an audience and that one scene was enough to sell me on not only Hunt, but the performance of Howard as Duck.

From then on, the film completely dispenses with any fluid motion from drama to comedy and proceeds to use both of them at will as the three journalists continue to hunt for the man who was responsible for so much death in the country.

Most of the cast does a fine job with their roles. While Simon Hunt ended up being a character that was ultimately sympathetic, it was Duck that I felt the most compassion for from the beginning. Howard manages to really capture the role and wastes absolutely no time in proving to the audience that he is the man that they want delivering the narration and exposition of the film. Jesse Eisenberg did a fine job in his supporting role but again I found that his character was easily the most annoying of the group though he was also the one who showed the most growth from start to finish in the film.

The writing in the film is certainly where the film deserves the most credit, though it’s difficult to know if that credit is good or bad. In the original article, the story is about five journalists who all covered the war in Bosnia getting together for a vacation and to catch up. It’s only after a night of hard drinking that the five men start talking about how only roughly half of the people indicted on war crimes during the way had yet to be caught which included the two most wanted.

As with any film that is based on a true story, there will always be certain liberties that have to be changed and one of the biggest plusses to this film is the end sequence which tells the audience some of the things that were changed from the article and some of the things that were really true. Perhaps the most disturbing (yet revealing) facts that was left in tact were about the wanted posters hung up by the US offering the reward on Dr. Karadicz… complete with a phone number that only worked in the United States.  While the real story didn’t seem to be nearly as exciting as the film made it out to be, the story was still kept relatively close to reality.

Extras

There are quite a few extras for the viewing audience to see including deleted scenes, a commentary track with writer-director Richard Shepard, a making of featurette, an interview with the original journalists and the original Esquire story itself.

Most of the extras are about what you would expect normally from any DVD release but I found the most curious extra was the original article which was filled with typos and grammatical errors. Looking up the original article on the Esquire website, I compared the two articles and found any errors on the DVD release were nowhere to be found in the original. The only two conclusions you can draw from that is that either Esquire has a better editor than ‘The Weinstein Company’ or they really didn’t care about accuracy. Either one is a very poor excuse for simple mistakes that could have been easily caught with a quick once over.

Overall

Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes heart breaking, sometimes tense and sometimes boring; this film manages to give a little bit of everything to its audience. While it was never phenomenal, the cast tells a good story that didn’t leave me wishing that I had 101 minutes of my life back. Largely ignored during its theatrical release, I predict a similar result when it hits store shelves in two weeks. While not everyone is going to enjoy this film, there is enough here to entertain those who take the time to seek this under the radar release out.

Final Grade:  86% – B

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