The Hunting Party
The Hunting Party combines just the right amount of dark humor and war-is-hell mentality to show what happens when war journalists take matters into their own hands.
We've seen movies about news correspondents struggling in the world's hottest war zones before, but The Hunting Party, inspired by a true story, gives a unique point of view on war and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of TV news reporter Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) and his loyal cameraman, Duck (Terrence Howard). These two have been through it all, doing their jobs and winning Emmys. But things get deeply personal one terrible day in a Bosnian village, and during a live broadcast on national television, Simon has a meltdown; he is sent packing, disgraced. Five years later, a promoted Duck returns to Sarajevo with rookie reporter Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg) to cover the fifth anniversary of the end of the war. Now desperate for work, Simon shows up with the promise of a world exclusive, convincing Duck he knows the whereabouts of Bosnia's most wanted war criminal ''The Fox'' (Ljubomir Kerekes). As they bluff, con and blunder their way through to get the scoop, Simon, Duck and the hapless Benjamin head into dark and dangerous waters. And the further they go, the uglier the truth becomes. Is an interview with The Fox all Simon wants? Or does he have another motive for finding--and ultimately exposing--this man responsible for unspeakable crimes?
Gere has really stepped things up lately. Earlier this year, he gave an excellent performance in The Hoax, and now does the same in The Hunting Party. In both films, Gere brilliantly embodies men on the edge, desperate for their next big break, but does so in that same slick, charismatic style we've come to love in the actor. Gere's Simon is also a tormented soul, the sadness of what he has experienced oozing from him--as well as a need for retribution. It would be a nice coup for the veteran actor if he got some Oscar notice out of this. As Duck, the always terrific Howard (Hustle & Flow) exudes the same empathy, and also does a fine job of showing how guilty Duck feels for selling out to take the cushy network job. And together, the actors display a very genuine comradeship, making it entirely believable that these men have bonded from years of being in the trenches. Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale) is basically the newbie to explain the backstory to, but he's very capable as the film's comic relief.
Writer/director Richard Shepard--best known for giving us The Matador, a bird's-eye view of how intimate and dysfunctional an assassin's life can be--broadens his scope a bit with The Hunting Party. Based on an Esquire magazine article titled "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" by Scott Anderson, Shepard edits and embellishes The Hunting Party ever so cleverly. He uses a classic three-prong character setup: the disgraced but hardened reporter looking for his way back in; the cameraman who's gone corporate but misses the action; and the rookie who has to be taught. Then he hands us a refreshing perspective on war--one in which a reporter crosses the line of journalistic conduct and makes things personal. And while Shepard's strengths obviously lie more with the words than with the camera, there are no glaring missteps in The Hunting Party's execution. The film is simply a compelling, sometimes darkly comic look at the horrors of war.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.