Monday 26 February 2018

Movies: The Hunter ***

(Club, IFI)

Paul Whitington

In Rafi Pitts' slow-moving thriller The Hunter, a lone man fronts up to an indifferent totalitarian state after the only things he cares about are taken away from him.

Pitts himself plays Ali Alavi, an Iranian with a shady past (a prison record is referred to) who has found a modest contentment. He works as a security guard at a Tehran car manufacturing plant, but lives for his time with his wife and young daughter, and for the odd hunting expedition to the countryside.

This fragile happiness, though, is shattered when Ali's wife and child fail to return home one night.

At first the authorities will tell him nothing, but then reveal that his wife and child were killed in "crossfire" between police and insurgents.

After hearing this, Ali retreats into a catatonic rage. He brings the family cat to his mother's house, then takes his hunting rifle to a summit overlooking the city and opens fire on the first police car he sees. When the cops inside get out he shoots them, then Ali goes on the run.

He seems about to get away with it until a police car that passes him in the fog begins a pursuit that ends in a crash, after which Ali takes to the forest.

By the time the two cops catch up with him they're lost in the forest, and are forced to take shelter in a cabin for the night. And it soon becomes clear that his captors disagree sharply about what to do with him.

All of this is nicely done. Pitts' editing is stylish, and he builds and sustains a portentous atmosphere most effectively.

But for all this The Hunter remains stubbornly slight, a superficial exploration of an ordinary man's exasperation in the face of tragedy rather than any kind of coherent broader comment on the stifling nature of life in a theocracy.

Irish Independent

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