Film review: 'Hunting' has wild tonal shifts

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

THE HUNTING PARTY — ** 1/2 — Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Jesse Eisenberg; with English subtitles (Eastern European dialects); rated R (violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity, drugs, brief nudity, brief sex, slurs)

It's hard to tell whether "The Hunting Party" is supposed to be taken seriously, either in part or in full, because the film is continually ping-ponging between dark satirical humor, thrilling wartime action, and straight-up commentary on both U.S. foreign policy and the news media.

"The Hunting Party" is also, allegedly, based on real events. An opening blurb states that "only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true."

As a result, the film is a sometimes enjoyable, but more often a confused and confusing experience.

Richard Gere stars as Simon Hunt, a disgraced television news correspondent. Simon has bounced around from country to country, conflict to conflict, after having a meltdown that was televised around the world.

His former camera man and best friend, "Duck" (Terrence Howard), has gone on to bigger and better things, and now has a cushy job as a news program producer.

The two old friends are reunited in Bosnia, where they're covering the same event. Simon comes to Duck with information that he promises will get them to "The Fox" (Ljumbomir Kerekes), an elusive Bosnian war criminal.

Duck isn't convinced. Besides, he's got a tag-along, a network executive's eager-beaver son (Jesse Eisenberg).

Like the art-house hit "The Matador," which was also from screenwriter/director Richard Shepard, "The Hunting Party" has some wild tonal shifts.

Also, a lot is riding here on the onscreen friendship between Gere and the always terrific Howard, which is, fortunately, very believable.

However, as amusing as Eisenberg's wisecracking supporting character is, he winds up undercutting a couple of crucial scenes.

"The Hunting Party" is rated R for strong scenes of war violence and action (shootings, beatings, and vehicular and explosive mayhem), strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang terms and other suggestive talk), gory imagery, drug content and references (marijuana and painkillers), brief male and female nudity, brief sexual contact, and slurs based on nationality, ethnicity and religious affiliation. Running time: 96 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com