The Hunting Party

2007, Movie, R, 103 mins


Writer-director Richard Shepard's follow-up to his breakthrough feature THE MATADOR (2005) is a dismal misfire that attempts to make black comedy out of the adventures of war correspondents and the dirty business of international politics.

Once a legendary daredevil who followed trouble from one war zone to another, Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) had a spectacular on-air meltdown while reporting from Bosnia's killing fields and vanished from the public eye. His cameraman, Duck (Terrence Howard), rode Hunt's coattails to a cushy job shooting fatuous network anchorman Franklin Harris (James Brolin) and only rarely misses the adrenaline rush of covering death and destruction. Then Harris decides to do a quickie five-years-after report from Bosnia, and brings Duck along. Who should come in from the cold but Hunt, broke, hard-drinking and looking pretty seedy, but sitting on a hot lead about the whereabouts of fugitive Serbian war criminal "the Fox" (Ljubomir Kerekes), whom the World Court would love to bring to trial but no official agency seems capable of finding. And according to Hunt's information, he's in a small village just a couple of hours' drive from Sarajevo. Duck has an appointment in Greece with a lissome beauty (Joy Bryant), but the thrill of Hunt's hunt is too tempting to resist. So, accompanied by fresh-faced Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg), the eager-beaver son of a network executive who figures out that they're on the trail of a scoop and won't let up until they agree to take him along, they hit the road. There Hunt confesses (for what turns out to be the first of many times) that he wasn't being entirely honest with them about everything: He doesn't really want to interview the Fox. He wants to kill him. At which point the tale takes a sharp turn into the fog of revenge melodrama and never finds its way out. The jolly journos run afoul of black marketers, are mistaken for CIA agents, slink around to clandestine meetings with a gullible military official (Mark Ivanir) and a very angry informant (Diane Kruger), and generally get themselves into a whole mess of trouble. There are plenty of grimly funny tales to be told about the Balkans, several of which have trickled out of various parts of the former Yugoslavia, including UNDERGROUND (1995), NO MAN'S LAND (2001) and GOODBYE, 20TH CENTURY! (1998). But Shepard's glib, facile boy's own adventure, which takes as its jumping-off point a snarky Esquire magazine article, isn't one of them. The icing on the cake is Duck's interminable opening voiceover, which recaps the events leading up to the real story and include philosophical asides that range from the obvious (you can't trust TV news) to the comical — someone should have noticed that Howard pronounces "horrors" as "whores" and redubbed his observation about the horrors of war. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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