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Long, Slow and Dull ... This Party Is a Drag

  • Christian Hamaker Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2007 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Long, Slow and Dull ... This <i>Party</i> Is a Drag

DVD Release Date:  January 22, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  September 14, 2007
Rating:  R (for strong language and some violent content)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  103 min.
Director:  Richard Shephard
Actors:  Terrence Howard, Richard Gere, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Kruger, James Brolin, Ljubomir Kerekes, Joy Bryant

The Hunting Party, the latest feature from director Richard Shepard (The Matador), attempts to draw a parallel between an earlier search for a Bosnian war criminal and our current search for Osama bin Laden.

Terrence Howard stars as Duck, a cameraman who made his mark working with noted war correspondent Simon Hunt (Richard Gere). However, no sooner do we get to know Hunt than his career goes into a freefall following an on-air meltdown with a network correspondent (James Brolin).

This is the film’s first strategic mistake, moving away from its apparent protagonist (Hunt) to focus instead on Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg), a journalism student sent to Bosnia by a network bigwig, where he teams up with Duck.

The film remains in a holding pattern until Hunt, now a freelance reporter in search of clients, reappears, coaxing Duck to join him in his hunt for “the Fox” (Ljubomir Kerekes), a notorious war criminal (based on the real-life Radovan Karadzic) who, according to Hunt, is hiding in the mountains. Hunt hopes to score an interview with the Fox and again stake a claim as a top network war correspondent—possibly capturing the war criminal while he’s at it. The inexperienced Benjamin tags along, serving as a potential liability at every turn for the war-weary veteran correspondents—until he scores the team’s biggest payoff.

The trio befriends a UN officer who, convinced that the journalists are CIA operatives, offers to help them in their quest. The team plays along with the ruse, but it backfires when the war criminals’ protectors become convinced that the team’s CIA boasts are based in fact.

The eventual explanation offered for Hunt’s obsessive search for the Fox—there’s more than just professional ethics at stake—complicates the movie’s tone, turning a buddy travelogue into a sober revenge story. In addition, the explanation behind Hunt’s earlier professional eclipse feels tacked on and unnecessary, as though the filmmakers don’t trust the audience to think the ethnic slaughter in that region is enough to undo the composure of a TV reporter, and only an extremely personal connection to one of the victims could push Hunt over the edge. The climactic encounter and endangerment aren’t unexpected, although the sadism of one of the Fox’s henchmen is particularly gruesome.

A stilted conclusion explicitly conveys the idea that the U.S. government, the UN, and NATO deliberately avoid taking action against war criminals holed up in mountainous regions (get it?), yet the pointed commentary about the supposed U.S. approach to war criminals develops so late in the film that the commentary lacks punch. Howard and Gere give The Hunting Party the old college try, but the material lets them down. Eisenberg, who makes the most of his third-banana role, lacks the charisma of Howard and Gere, but is well cast as the grating Benjamin.

Casting aside, however, the film is so cynical and profane that it largely fails to entertain or inform. This “hunt” is long, slow and dull—a party full of unlikable people that makes a night at home a preferable alternative.

Questions or comments about this review? Contact Christian Hamaker at crosswalkchristian@earthlink.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Lord’s name taken in vain multiple times; excessive profanity.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Smoking and drinking.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Discussion of Penthouse; some kissing; a man and woman are pictured in bed, covered; a man drops his pants and “moons” officials; topless women on a boat; man in a tub, but nothing is shown; a woman mentions she was gang-raped; threatening description of sodomy.
  • Violence:  Images of the war victims; gunfire; a pregnant woman is killed; men are menaced by an axe-wielding killer.