Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Hunting Party


The first words that appear in the movie, told the audience something to the effect that only the most ridiculous or ludicrous of situations depicted, are true. And in fact, while it's supposedly based loosely on a true story off an Esquire article, there are enough of such said moments thrown into the mix so frivolously, that one would be forgiven should one think that this was entire made up. So what eventually held up the movie despite its wafer thin plot and hurried finale was the chemistry and banter between two charismatic actors in Richard Gere and Terrence Howard.

Narrated by Howard's Duck, a cameraman who's part of a tag team with Gere's gung-ho go-getting news reporter Simon, Duck recounts in the first 10 minutes the glory days of their partnership, where they brazenly dive right into conflict zones around the world just to live up the adrenaline, and gather awards, recognition and chicks along the way. But the Bosnian War in the 90s soon become the final straw that broke the camel's back of endurance on the evils of mankind, and coupled with the fact of personal loss, Simon loses it live on the air, and with that uncontrollable outburst, cost him his job and relegation from A-lister to scraping whatever unwanted news he can from places nobody is interested in.

As for Duck, he gets promoted to a cushy job working the cameras behind the scenes for a news anchor, and while the perks are good, he clearly misses the good ol' days of being shot at, and being at the forefront bringing conflict to the masses. Fast forward to 5 years after the conflict in Bosnia had ended, Simon and Duck meet again, and the former proposes one more collaboration between the two, that of snagging the much sought after interview with the war criminal known as The Fox (Ljubomir Kerekes), with rookie Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg) in tow. What was soon discovered though, was Simon's personal quest for glory in wanting to arrest The Fox to claim the bounty of US$5M, which of course runs against the grain of the profession, and not to mention the escalating of risks involved.

There is potential plastered all over the movie which unfortunately when unfulfilled. For starters, the numerous cover ups of what could have been successful sting operations to make the necessary arrests. We all know how NATO and UN forces, well in fact the world, just stood back and watched while Bosnia burnt itself through ethnic cleansing, and how during the peacekeeping efforts thereafter, led to the discovery that the forces aren't doing much about the seeking and arresting of war criminals. The cover ups would have made this one huge web of conspiracy to sift through. However the hunting party had it too easy in just following a set pattern of hitting the bars for their clues, while encountering nasty locals who insinuate that their target was indeed around town. Supporting characters come and go, though the best were reserved for those men in uniform (love that Indian UN peacekeeper whose job was to train the local police), Diane Kruger in a role that could have been filled by any other blonde, and a welcome inclusion of Dylan Baker as a secret operative who's no fan of what our party of three got themselves into. And of course, not forgetting the self-fulfilling prophecy of having ludicrous moments in the story, which made it slightly comedic, unintentionally.

While the story's pretty much plain sailing, it is the charisma of both Gere and Howard that made this movie rather engaging, with one having nothing and thus losing nothing in this crazy, dangerous pursuit, and with the other having just about everything to lose from position, career and a hot chick in waiting. Sure there are other moralistic viewpoints that the movie could have, would have and probably should have adopted to make it a thinking man's movie, but what came across ultimately was a tongue-in-cheek rendition of a serious topic made frivolous by the many trivialities used to spice up the movie for mass entertainment. Could have been great, but alas.

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