Review by Gary Dean Murray


    “In war what you see, and what really happened, are sometimes two very different things.”  Or so goes the thought behind the latest political, mostly true to life thrill ride called The Hunting Party. The film also states that only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true.

    Richard Gere plays Simon Hunt, a well-respected reporter who covers all of the world’s hot zones from El Salvador to Somalia.  He is a blazing, race past the edge journalist living as much for the action as the story.  His cameraman is Duck (Terrence Howard); a wingman who just shoots the pictures.  As they run from war site to war site, their giant ‘TV’ markings on their vests let the combatants not to shoot at them.  Only sometimes does this work.  One day in 1994, they come across a particularly brutal slaughter at a Muslim Bosnian village and while reporting the story, Simon looses it and has a classic on camera meltdown that he later finds out is a textbook case of how not to do your job.  After the incident, Duck and Hunt go their separate ways.

    It is five years later (2000) and the fortunes of these two characters have changed.  Duck has gone on to bigger and better things, shooting the network anchor in studio, leaving behind all the rough and tumble exercises of field reporting.  But the anchor wants to do a report on how the country is doing post-war.  Back in Bosnia, Duck runs into Simon Hunt.  The once lead reporter is now hustling stories for any news agency that will take his tapes.  He is on that bottom rung of journalism.  Simon asks Duck to shoot his stand-ups in the field so our Mr. Hunt can save some money.  Duck wants to be with his girlfriend in Greece but reluctantly agrees to help out an old co-worker.  While together Simon tells Duck the whereabouts of a notorious criminal called “The Fox”.  He is a madman, responsible for raping and genocide, but many of the locals think of him as a god.  Though never captured and on the UN wanted list for five years, the reporter claims that he knows the location where The Fox is hiding.  Simon convinces Duck to go along for the ride and maybe even capture the man, landing the five million-dollar reward.  A rookie reporter Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg) tags along.  The kid is a recent Harvard grad just getting his feet wet in one of the world’s worst battle zones.

    The film trudges on more as a mystery of a foxhunt, looking for the bad man.  Since no one trusts another in this world.  Every person the reporters encounter assumes that the trio is CIA trying to finish off the villain.  During this travail, there are near executions, encounters with midgets and road chases.  Truly the most amazing part of The Hunting Party happens during the credits.  They show a scene where five reporters are in a bar and explain that there were only four in real life.  It shows all of the principle people of the story and shows that they were all actual individuals.  The film tries to be painstakingly accurate is as many details as possible.   Director Richard Shepard take an almost pseudo-documentary approach to making The Hunting Party.  He never goes down the road of fancy camera tricks and slice and dice editing.  He goes old school, classic Hollywood style in telling this tale.

    I have a request from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.  Please give Richard Gere an Oscar this year, if not for this role then for his entire career.  For years he has delivered performance upon performance that has been award worthy, only to come away ignored.  This year he gives two great roles in two completely different films, but both about journalists (the first was The Hoax).  He should have won, or at least been nominated for years.  Make 2007 his year to take home the little gold statue.  Besides one has to love Simon’s character credo “Putting live in danger is living.”  Terrence Howard gives another strong performance in The Hunting Party.  As Duck, he is our eyes into this madness.  Though he should know better, he goes for Simon’s adventure just as much for the story as for the thrills.  One gets the feeling that the former field lens jockey wants to be back in the fray.

    One has to respect Richard Shepard for writing and directing this crazy tale.  The man behind the very underrated film The Matador comes back with another story that is as crazy as truth can be.  He never wavers his camera as he attacks the story like a man obsessed and possessed.  We are taken on this adventure with eyes open and hearts pounding.  While this is not major Oscar faire, it is another strong indication that Richard Gere is overdue for his moment of Academy Glory.  I don’t know if this is his Golden Ticket, but he has to get it sometime.

Visit the official Weinstein Company's THE HUNTING PARTY movie website by clicking here.

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