Review: 'The Hunting Party' engaging

Genocide and comedy don’t mix well, and “The Hunting Party,” written and directed by Richard Shepard, can sometimes be queasy-going as its buddy protagonists banter and romp their way through shell-shocked Bosnia. The film also suffers from a cheap plot turn and a dearth of profundity.

Yet Shepard is no dullard or dimwit, and the colorful bits of action, politics and zany camaraderie add up. Consider this movie a captivating jumble.

Based, rather loosely, on an Esquire article, the film stars Richard Gere as danger-loving reporter Simon Hunt and Terrence Howard as strait-laced cameraman Duck — a dynamite war-zone team until Simon, in a ravaged Bosnian town, crumbles on live TV. The meltdown lands Simon in freelance obscurity. Duck gets a comfy studio gig.

Several years later, the pair reunite in Sarajevo, and a wearier but still-crazy Simon convinces Duck to join him on a journey tothe scoop of a lifetime: a meeting with a notorious war criminal (Ljubomir Kerekes) hiding in the mountains. Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg), a network VP’s fresh-out-of-Harvard son, accompanies them on the treacherous mission.

Misadventures occur, of course. A U.N. operative (Mark Ivanir) mistakes the trio for CIA agents, and the guys perpetuate the misunderstanding, for starters.

Tonally, the movie doesn’t gel, and, like Shepard’s “The Matador,” it isn’t as edgy as it thinks it is. A wrongheaded twist takes the story into revenge terrain, cheapening the film’s treatment of Bosnia’s tragedy. Gere, in a role that a typecast Robert Downey Jr. would ace, doesn’t convey in Simon the necessary depth or gonzo element.

But Shepard still hits more than it misses. Flawed but never boring, the movie’s a stimulating, relevant action satire.

The manhunt scenes have vim, and Shepard generally pulls off his nuttier material. And while the comedy clashes with the grimmer stuff, it doesn’t, thankfully, obscure it. War-scarred landscapes underscore the tragedy of the Balkan setting.

Shepard’s suggestion that governments, for political reasons, have allowed war criminals to remain unapprehended, is surely noteworthy. Jabs at the CIA and U.S. media — represented, respectively, by Dylan Baker and James Brolin (as a pompous anchorman) in small roles — contain spark.

For stronger fare about the absurdity of war, or how war warps the psyche, rent “Three Kings,” “Cabaret Balkan” or “Underground.” But for a current take on this pertinent subject, “The Hunting Party” contains enough sterling moments to qualify as ticket-worthy and memorable.

The Hunting Party ***

Starring Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Jesse Eisenberg

Written and directed by Richard Shepard; inspired by an Esquire article by Scott Anderson

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 43 minutes

entertainmentFeaturesGossipscoop

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Private vehicles were banned from much of Market Street in January 2020, causing bike ridership on the street to increase by 25 percent and transit efficiency by as much as 12 percent. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board approves new Better Market Street legislation

Advocates say traffic safety improvements don’t go far enough to make up for lost bikeway

San Francisco City Hall is lit in gold and amber to remember victims as part of a national Memorial to Lives Lost to COVID-19 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco joins national COVID memorial ceremony

San Francisco took part Tuesday in the first national Memorial to Lives… Continue reading

The S.F. Police Department has canceled discretionary days off and will have extra officers on duty for Inauguration Day, chief Bill Scott said Tuesday. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SF ‘prepared for anything’ ahead of inauguration, but no protests expected

Authorities boosting police staffing, security at City Hall

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said Tuesday that The City received only a fraction of the COVID vaccine doses it requested this week. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Unpredictable supplies leave SF running low on COVID vaccine

Reported reactions to Moderna shots prompt hold on 8,000 doses

The T Third Street train resumes service on Saturday, joined by a new express route between Bayview-Hunters Point and downtown.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bayview-Hunters Point residents get first direct express bus to downtown

New Muni route to launch alongside the return of the T-Third train

Most Read