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HUNTER, THE (director: Daniel Nettheim; screenwriters: Julia Leigh/Alice Addison/Wain Fimeri/based on the novel by Julia Leigh/based on an original story by Wain Fimeri & Daniel Nettheim; cinematographer: Robert Humphreys; editor: Roland Gallois; music: Andrew Lancaster/Michael Lira/Matteo Zingales; cast: Willem Dafoe (Martin David), Frances O’Connor (Lucy Armstrong), Sam Neill (Jack Mindy), Morgana Davies (Sass Armstrong), Finn Woodlock (Bike Armstrong), Jacek Koman (Middleman), Callan Mulvey (Rival Hunter), (Jarrah Armstrong); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Vincent Sheehan; Magnolia Pictures; 2011-Australia)

“Well-crafted and finely acted adventure story that held my interest throughout.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Long-time Australian TV director Daniel Nettheim(“Angst”) superbly helms this well-crafted, stunningly beautiful visual treat (shot on location in Tasmania) and finely acted adventure story that held my interest throughout, as it tells about the dark side of giant science corporations who are viewed as greedy and ruthless exploiters willing to commit brutal crimes to get what they want. It’sadapted from the novel by Julia Leigh and the screenplay is intelligently written by Alice Addison, and besides the adventure tale it pushes the button on socio-political issues.

Ruthless, skilled, loner mercenary outsider biggame hunter Martin David (Willem Dafoe) poses as a scientist and is sent from Paris by a company middleman (Jacek Koman) to the wilderness of a poor logging town in Tasmania, whose industry is threatened by a shutdown for ecological reasons by government scientists and environmental activists, to find the last member of the “Tasmanian tiger” species, a relative of the marsupial, and if it exists to trap it and bring back its DNA. The tiger is believed to contain a unique and powerful chemical of considerable commercial value.The public is unaware that this tiger may exist, since it was declared officially extinct in 1936, but a few sightings in the last year encourage the shadowy secretive Red Leaf military biotech company to collect the valued DNA for cloning and thereby to make sure they have the valuable exclusive rights to the rare animal.

Martin sets up a base camp in the secluded run-down farmhouse of a missing for a year scientist/eco-activist, also hired by Red Leaf to track the elusive tiger, and stays with the scientist’s despondent wife Lucy (Frances O’Connor) and his two young perceptive children Sass (Morgana Davies) and the younger mute Bike (Finn Woodlock). The hunter bonds with the family, gets the generator running so there’s electricity and hot water and is regarded with jealousy by the elderly protective Jack Mindy (Sam Neill), also on the Red Leaf payroll but who proves to be mostly a hindrance.

After Martin tells Red Leaf he discovered the cave where the tiger dwells and sets a steel trap, the company sends a replacement hunter (Callan Mulvey), who locates the hunter on the mountain and by pointing a rifle at his head forces him to take him to the cave.But the cunning hunter overcomes his rival hunter and realizing how evil Red Leaf is, hunts the tiger down and cremates it over a campfire, which probably seals his fate the same way as the tiger.

REVIEWED ON 11/29/2012 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”