Some low-budget movies you've never heard of arrive on DVD this week, led by a gripping star vehicle for Willem Dafoe.
"The Hunter" (Magnolia, 2012; R for violence, language; $26.98, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). Dafoe is very good in this deliberate thriller as a lone-wolf mercenary hired to track down a rare tiger in Tasmania, an animal believed to be extinct until locals began reporting sightings. Naturally, a shady corporation wants the creature for its own nefarious purposes.
But Dafoe gradually goes soft after meeting and becoming attached to a widowed woman (Frances O'Connor) and her two young children deep in the remote wilderness, and he's suspicious of an overly solicitous neighbor (Sam Neill).
Engrossing and slow to build but it pays off, and the gorgeous location footage shot in Tasmania is a nice bonus. The true story of the extinct tiger is told in featurette. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98.)
"God Bless America" (Magnet, 2012; R for violence, language; $26.98, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music video, trailer). There's something dangerously cathartic about watching a guy (Joel Murray, his character diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor) who is so fed up with self-centered, discourteous people that he starts blowing them away.
But writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait revels a bit too much in the blood and laces the script with an abundance of foul language so that the novelty wears off and it becomes tedious. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98.)
"Wind Blast" (Well Go, 2010, $26.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurette, trailer). This Chinese thriller has a pair of bounty hunters pursuing a contract killer only to discover he's also being chased by mobsters, making for more car chases, shootouts and martial-arts fights than they bargained for. Loud, action-filled and set in the desert, which may account for the box description: "A kung fu Western on steroids." (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98.)
"Dawn Rider" (Vivendi, 2012; R for violence, language; $19.95, featurette). Christian Slater stars in this Western as a former Pinkerton agent that vows to avenge his father, who was killed by bandits. Jill Hennessy provides the love interest and Donald Sutherland is a lawman on Slater's trail. Believe it or not, this is a remake of the John Wayne 1935 B-western of the same title, an often-recycled yarn. (Available exclusively at Wal-mart; also on Blu-ray, $19.97.)
"American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars" (Universal/Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 2012, $24.98). This latest entry in the "American Girl" franchise has a modern-day setting as gymnast McKenna excels at her sport but falls down in academics, until she gets some help. With Nia Vardalos and Cathy Rigby. (Available exclusively at Wal-mart and American Girl stores.)
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