The Hunter

Willem Dafoe burns brightly in pursuit of rare tiger...

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Willem Dafoe burns brightly in pursuit of rare tiger…

Such is the lot of the jobbing actor, it’s sometimes hard for to audiences to remember what is what they liked about you in the first place. For too long now, Willem Dafoe has made presumably lucrative but seemingly undemanding forays into Hollywood studio movies like Sam Raimi’s Spider Man and the dismal John Carter.

In The Hunter, he plays Martin, a mercenary dispatched by a pharmaceutical company to the Australian wilds to track the rare Tasmanian tiger, thought to have been extinct since the 1930s. Martin watches grainy, black and white footage of the last known specimen, with its elongated jaw and strange, dog-like face and striped body it looks unnatural, alien. He takes digs with the family of a missing eco-activist, Jarrah, and there’s run ins with unfriendly locals – there’s the tacit suggestion they have might been responsible for Jarrah’s disappearance.

The film’s at its best in a series of long, near-silent sections when it’s just Dafoe out in the wilderness, tracking his prey. Now in his mid-fifties, Dafoe’s rugged features mirror the craggy landscape he navigates so purposefully. It reminds us of how engrossing Dafoe can be on screen – something that seems to have been forgotten under the latex and special effects of his recent movies.
Michael Bonner

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