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  Publicity Stills of
"The Hunting Party"
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Richard Shepard
Cast: Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Jesse Eisenberg, James Brolin, Diane Kruger, Joy Bryant
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18 (Coarse Language and Some Nudity)
Official Website: www.thehuntingpartymovie.com/

Opening Day: 21 August 2008


"In war what you see, and what really happened, are sometimes two very different things."

TV News reporter Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) and cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard) have worked in the world's hottest war zones: from Bosnia to Iraq, from Somalia to El Salvador. Together they have dodged bullets, filed incisive reports and collected Emmy awards. Then one terrible day in a Bosnian village everything changes. During a live broadcast on national television, Simon has a meltdown. After that, Duck is promoted and Simon just disappears.

Five years later Duck returns to Sarajevo with rookie reporter Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg) to cover the fifth anniversary of the end of the war. Simon shows up, a ghost from the past, with the promise of a world exclusive. He convinces Duck that he knows the whereabouts of Bosnia's most wanted war criminal "The Fox." Armed with only spurious information Simon, Duck and Benjamin embark on a dark and dangerous mission that takes them deep into hostile territory.

It's the scoop of a lifetime but will they live to report it?

Movie Review:

When former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic—allegedly responsible for as a quarter of a million deaths during the Bosnian War and one of the most wanted men in the world for more than a decade—was caught in Belgrade last month, it wasn't just the suddenness of his capture that caught the media's attention but rather the circumstances surrounding his evasion. Karadzic donned owl-eyed glasses, grew a sweeping white beard that covered half his face and deigned to call himself Dr. Dragan David Dabic, a New Age practitioner of alternative medicine. And even incognito, he willfully put himself in the public eye by giving speeches on holistic practices and sexual therapy, as well as writing various articles in the fitness magazines on the importance of healthy living and spirituality.

But his remarkable ability to avoid the United Nations and international authorities wasn't all down to his guile and cunning of never having to reach for a razor blade ever again. There were close calls during cloak-and-dagger operations that suddenly went dead just as they caught whiff of Karadzic, among the numerous other gild-edged political opportunities during the later part of the 1990s to have apprehended the former President of Republika Srpska. That is, if you were to believe his still vocal Serbian ultranationalists, some staunchly believing that their idol's political leverage reached across the continent just in time to have brokered a deal as the war had started to wind down.

Conspiracy theorists seem to agree—but not on any certain terms, or even in any sort of specifics—that a number of Washington politicos and officials from the UN, had a hand (indirect or otherwise) in offering Karadzic a arrangement while striking the accords that ended the region's three-and-a-half year long armed conflict. Sightings of the man were reported in this new decade, but a low-key diplomatic presence and an anemic political imperative to carry out a manhunt had given an undue sense of transition without closure to the majority of Serbs, like an untreated wound left to be merely covered.

It’s that very idea that war criminals, dangerous fugitives and wanted men could conceivably be left to their own devious devices in the age when any schlep with Google has the ability to just about zoom into your sidewalk that starts to give one pause. All while governments put on a tough enough face on our morning news, juxtaposed with grieving civilians and scrolling counters of increasing death counts as countless pundits debate incessantly on political ambiguities tinged with just the right condescension of dispassionate moralism. Presciently enough, writer and director Richard Shepard sees this disconnect between the past and present, these remnants of the past shrouded by certain secrecy.

Where could these men—faces forever etched in the minds of survivors—be hiding in a world increasingly smaller? Jumping off from an article by Scott Anderson in the Esquire from 2000 about a cadre of war journalists that went on the search for Karadzic, got confused for CIA operatives and found themselves in a whole heap of trouble. This target seems primed for maximum satirical prospects but Shepard takes his latest film, “The Hunting Party”, nowhere in particular. Taking on the media and its tendency for ADD-style reporting, the American military, international politics, post-war Bosnia and the West’s own ability to tune out injustices that aren’t necessarily relatable to them, Shepard touches on just about enough intentions to ensure relevant but mediocre war commentary. Somewhere along the way to satire, it all just drops off into glib exploitation of war crimes.

Coming off as misguidedly preening, Shepard just never seems ready or even capable of deriving a black comedy from atrocities by always talking and skirting around the issue. Just as in his breakthrough feature, “The Matador”, he uses the same comedic buddy movie formula to give two midlifers one last jaunt through danger. Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) is a wreck, but no hack. He’s the cliché of a movie journalist—dogged, misanthropic, unsuccessful and usually right when nobody else seems to think so. Boozing around active war zones around the world and selling them on the cheap to any news agencies around the world, Hunt has been subsisting ever since an on-air meltdown in Bosnia in the mid-90s that got him thrown off his network. His former cameraman, Duck (an interminably wasted Terrence Howard as narrator) is now a network hotshot, with a cushy studio job. On a superficial assignment in Bosnia to commemorate the five-year anniversary of the end of the war, he runs into Hunt, seemingly on a personal vendetta to bring in The Fox (Ljubomir Kerekes), a mastermind behind the Balkan genocide that claimed Hunt’s would-be soulmate and Radovan Karadzic archetype. Thrown into the mix is the network vice-president’s eager beaver son (Jesse Eisenberg), tagging along for that real world experience because according to Hunt, you just can’t “believe all you learn in journalism school".

Post-war Bosnia is quite obviously inherently dark, unfriendly place for them. Even more unfriendly when the questions they ask and the information they seek stirs up memories and resentment among the folks living in the outskirts of the region where The Fox is allegedly being protected. Shepard, to his credit, crafts scenes that work on a purely comedic level, devoid of social context but with character interactions, mostly from the good work done by Gere who underplays his movie-star good looks with grizzled jadedness to the world and his profession. But Shepard takes things too far by tacking on Bosnians as nothing more than carnival sideshows and angry militants out for more blood, until a frantically tone-deaf build-up to suspense and action. It’s just much too self-satisfied in how absurd it all is.

Movie Rating:

(An awkward, almost hysterical misfire of tone)

Review by Justin Deimen


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