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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Local opening date: 9/21/2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
Many of us film fans are partial to dramatic films that integrate real political scenarios and address injustice in their fictional stories. I think of the Last King of Scotland and Hotel Rwanda, for example, and the upcoming Trade which exposes the repulsive international sex trafficking. Writer/director Richard Shepard The Hunting Party is in that group, taking the hunt for infamous Bosnian war criminals as its catalyst.

The story hangs on veteran, foolishly daring reporter Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) and his cameraman called Duckie (Terrence Howard) as they pursue the notorious killer called The Fox who ordered the rape and murder of numerous Muslims. As our naïve young surrogate and some comic relief, son of a network V.P., Benjamin tags along, wide eyed and disbelieving. Palpable tension and a brisk pace hook us on the story shot partially on location in Croatia.

Voiceover narration by Duck establishes his relationship with Simon in many previous war spots: Somalia, Iraq, El Salvador. When Simon answers several live TV questions in a shockingly unprofessional way, he's fired and Duck is promoted upstairs to studio work. Happenstance takes Duck back to Bosnia and the Republic of Serpsa where Simon reappears, hooking him on insiders' information and a tantalizing chance to interview The Fox. The chase is on.

Based on real incidents, The Hunting Party is weakened politically by its focus on Hunt's revenge motive, revealed as events unfold, and the foregrounding of some truly silly confrontation scenes, especially a couple bar episodes. Such distractions push the meritorious indictments of appallingly wan attempts to capture war criminals too far into the background. Similarly, a mocking tone undermines what would be better served as straight-forward information, inexcusable at face value, including CIA and other US actions. I'm thinking of the opening titles that announce, "Only the most ridiculous part of this story are true" and some comments before the closing credits. Just seeing the 1984 Olympic Village and the Sarajevo buildings riddled with bullets and explosions will continue to disgust any aware viewer.

The Hunting Party is professionally done-well shot, editing, and acted by Gere and Howard, in particular. It makes a stunning change for writer/director Richard Shepard from his hilarious The Matador. And even with its compromises, it's refreshing to have a high caliber film not flinch from harsh political commentary. Primarily in English but with some Serbian with English subtitles. At area theatres.

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