Hunting Party, The rating:
Terrence Howard has starred in two major releases so far in 2007 -- The Brave One and The Hunting Party. Unfortunately the films are not as good as the performances he gave in them.
There are a lot of movies that don't deliver on their promise. The Hunting Party is one of them. It's a disheartening disappointment.
The Hunting Party is written and directed by Richard Shepard, who created The Matador, but it lacks the winning tone and chemistry of that successful movie. The biggest problem for Shepard in The Hunting Party is how to meld brutality and offbeat humor.
In The Matador, he was able to make an engaging, human movie about a neurotic hitman (beautifully played by Pierce Brosnan) and a repressed salesman (Greg Kinnear). The chemistry between them was infectious.
In The Hunting Party, Shepard's task is more difficult. He tries to merge ethnic cleansing with a caper. But there's too much horror lurking behind the reality of the genocide to allow whimsy to work.
The Hunting Party is a different animal than The Matador. It's set in Bosnia after the Balkan conflict. A journalist Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) who covered the conflict has fallen on hard times. In a flashback we see him break down on camera after he discovers the body of the pregnant woman he loved, who was a victim of a massacre. The problem with such scenes is their carnage is bracketed with labored, light-hearted scenes. It's a marriage that won't work in Bosnia. Or anywhere.
Simon Hunt, now a destitute journalist, meets his photographer friend Duck (Howard), who is now a success with network TV. He's in Sarajevo covering the anniversary of the end of the conflict.
Simon says he has a shot at a great story, and he convinces the reluctant Duck and a young, novice journalist (Jesse Eisenberg) to join him on a hunt after "The Fox" -- a war criminal -- and bring him to justice. "The Fox" is living comfortably in the woods.
The Hunting Party is oh-so-loosely based on an article in Esquire magazine in 2000, by Scott Anderson, about six journalists who decided to pursue war criminal Radovan Karadzic.
The Hunting Party cuts the journalists by half, which is pretty much what the movie does. Shepard's last film The Matador was effective. The Hunting Party is just Bull.
The Brave One
The Brave One is worth seeing for the scenes between Terrence Howard and Jodie Foster. Foster plays Erica Bain, who is the victim of a rape and a beating, which also costs her fiance his life.
Howard plays Detective Mercer, the cop who keeps crossing paths with her. They become adversarial friends. She is haunted by what happened to her and her lover, so eventually she buys a gun and becomes an avenger.
The compliant script gives her shaky carte blanche. Everywhere she goes -- in the subway or in a drug store -- thugs threaten her. And, of course, she blows them away.
The Brave One doesn't earn suspension of disbelief. Coincidence becomes contrivance.
That The Brave One almost gets away with its forced ending is a credit to Terrence Howard's acting.
The director of The Brave One is Neil Jordan, who directed The Crying Game (1992). The Brave One is the smirking game.
Terrence Howard is one fine actor. But the last two movies he's in are better suited to Moe Howard.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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