I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday or Tuesday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it!

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What’s the movie? The Hunter (2011)

What’s it rated? Rated R for Willem Dafoe’s brow line, a smidge of man on man violence and a plethora of dead animals.

Did people make it? Written by Daniel Nettheim and Alice Addison. Directed by Daniel Nettheim. Acted by Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock.

What’s it like in one sentence? A man finds himself while hunting the most mythical beast of all: love (also a Tasmanian Tiger).

Why did you watch it? RelaxingDragon wanted me to vet it for him.

What’s it about in one paragraph? Dafoe plays Martin David, a professional mercenary/hunter who is hired by a military biotech company called Red Leaf to travel to Tasmania and hunt the the presumably extinct Tasmanian Tiger. Upon arriving in Tasmania, he rents a room from Lucy (O’Connor) a woman whose husband has recently gone missing and is stuck in a pill induced depressed haze instead of taking care of her two young children. Martin unexpectedly becomes very important to the children and he grows to care for them as well. Meanwhile, Red Leaf becomes impatient waiting for their animal and don’t take too kindly to Martin playing house instead of hunter. Bullet holes ensue.

Dafoe right after he found Troy Duffy's house.

Dafoe right after he found Troy Duffy’s house.

Play or remove from my queue? Willem Dafoe is an interesting actor. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very good, but he’s also a weird hybrid of a few different types of actor. On one hand, he’s a personality actor and keeps most of his performances existing very close to one another in the same wheelhouse in films like Born on the 4th of July, The Hunter, Spider Man, White Sands and New Rose Hotel. On the other hand, he’s a wonderful character actor and creates these indelibly bizarre and memorable people filled with tics we’ll remember forever in stuff like Shadow of the Vampire, Boondock Saints (yeah, I loved him in it), Wild at Heart, To Live and Die in L.A., eXistenZ, The Life Aquatic and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. On the third hand, he sometimes eschews character goes straight for emotional truth and realism, so you’re still getting the Dafoe personality actor, but with a much rawer edge than normal in films like Antichrist, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, Platoon, Auto Focus, Mississippi Burning, The Last Temptation of Christ and Affliction. It’s as if 90% of the time, he’s playing ciphers, but most of the time he reaches the character emotionally, which allows the audience to reach them as well. But when he doesn’t, you’re just watching Dafoe be Dafoe, which is still pretty good, but it always leaves the film a little empty.

The Hunter is a very good movie. It’s perfectly paced and gorgeously directed by Daniel Nettheim, who appears to be stuck directing Australian television more than film. Frances O’Connor and the child actors that play her kids are great and create one of the most believable family units I’ve seen in film for a long time. It’s tightly edited, densely plotted and just an overall extremely well made film. But Dafoe is a cipher in this. He’s got some recognizable motivations and a few overly telegraphed character beats that he acts well, but the entire structure of the film is built around watching his character change and we definitely see the man he becomes, but without having much of a clue about the man he was before. There’s some character tics and a few hints, don’t get me wrong, but not enough to be invested in the metamorphosis the man goes through as the film wears on. The power of the entire film is based on our involvement in his journey and as the climax came roaring at me, I felt nothing towards his character at all.

The film is very much worth watching, as the story is fascinating. If Dafoe’s character was given a little more depth and soul then I would call the film a minor masterpiece with one of the most powerfully effecting endings I’ve seen in some time. As it stands, though, it’s a well made thriller that misses the mark by a hair. It’s a testament to the film that the ending is as powerful as it is, even without the required investment in Dafoe’s character.

The majestic Dafoe, alone in the wild.

The majestic Dafoe, alone in the wild.

Do you have a favorite line? It’s the final line of the film, so I’ll save it for next week.

How’s the music? Inconsistent. The intense moments are scored with generic thriller beats that sound straight out of an Ashley Judd movie, but some of the subtle character interactions  are punctuated with a few gorgeous orchestral pieces straight of of a Malick sunset. 

What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Rampart (great cast with a forgettable script), Boy Wonder (been meaning to watch this for awhile), Sniper: Reloaded (poor Billy Zane), Machine Gun Preacher (just haven’t had the time for this one yet) and Ironclad (I kinda loved this one). 

Do you have an interesting fun-factThe black and white footage of the Tasmanian Tiger at the beginning of the film is the actual footage of the last Tasmanian Tiger in captivity.

What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.8

What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.5

Can you link to the movie? It’s all I ever wan-ted! 

Any last thoughts? You could do much worse. You could also do better, but the things that do work in this film work really well and make it worth your time.

Did you watch anything else this week? I’ve been watching Star Trek TOS and loving every second of it. Watching all the Star Trek shows in chronological order was a pretty cool idea.

Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Ticked Off Trannies With Knives? Sosgemini had a good point in the comments last week: you can enjoy Trannies for the campy grindhouse vibe without really needing to put much focus on the LGBTQ aspects of the film. If all you’re doing is focusing on that, then you’re only seeing the forest for the trees a little bit.

Next Week? Compliance


The actual Tasmanian Tiger.

The actual Tasmanian Tiger.