The Hunting Party

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Rating: R

Terrence Howard as Duck
Richard Gere as Simon
James Brolin as Franklin Harris
Damir Saban as Gert
Jesse Eisenberg as Benjamin
Ljubomir Kerekes as The Fox

Special Features:
Six Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary
Audio Commentary By Director Richard Shepard
Making “The Hunting Party”
From Journalism To Film: Director Richard Shepard Interviews The Writers Of The Original Esquire Article
“What I Did On My Summer Vacation”: The Original Esquire Article

Other Info:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 101 Minutes

The following is from the DVD cover:

“Inspired by true events, The Hunting Party stars Richard Gere and Terence Howard as vacationing journalists who try to track down a missing war criminal in one of Eastern Europe’s deadliest regions. What begin as an impulsive reporting adventure immediately turns dangerous, as hostile locals, shady underworld figures and a case of mistaken identity put them squarely in their target’s crosshairs. Amid the bullets and bombs, they discover that getting the scoop is one thing – getting out alive is something else entirely.”

“The Hunting Party” is rated R for strong language and some violent content.

The Movie:
In the spring of 2001, a group of five veteran war reporters reunited in Bosnia and Herzegovina to reminisce about the Bosnian war and get blindingly drunk – not necessarily in that order – and as people often want to do after they’ve had a few too many, they decided to wander out into the countryside, around Sarajevo, and capture an international war criminal. Naturally, they were assumed to be a crack CIA hit squad and one thing leading to another, several NATO and American security officials had to be called in to get them out of the hornets nest they stirred up.

It’s not a bad story as far as it goes, and says a lot about the strange culture of U.N. Peacekeepers, intelligence gatherers, the people they follow, and the people that cover it all. It’s particularly telling that Radovan Karadžić, one of the most wanted men of the war, remains at large. Of course, no story, no matter how interesting it may be on its face, can’t do without a little bit of the standardized Hollywood treatment, and “The Hunting Party” gets that in spades.

It’s not just a piece of intellectual curiosity for the people involved, but – at least on Simon’s part – a holy crusade relating to his downfall as a popular reporter following a spectacular meltdown on live television, and the slightly aimless but interesting wandering of the actual event has been replaced with tense bar room standoffs, car chases, and several bits of near execution, the idea being that it may not be all that realistic, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than what really happened. And to some extent that’s true. As long as you don’t think about it too much, “The Hunting Party” is more than a little entertaining, with a solid cast (particularly the surprisingly effective Jesse Eisenberg, who’s impersonation of a CIA Agent is one of the highlights of the show), though it struggles to decide who the main character is. The story seems to be about Simon, but being told entirely through Ducky’s eyes, which causes the truly emotional moments to often be diffused, despite Terrence Howard doing some great work. He and Gere have real chemistry, particularly in the prologue chronicling Hunt’s rise and fall, which is better than all the rest of the movie put together.

The filmmakers have enough taste that they’re able to paint a fairly grim view of the realities of living in Bosnia, even after the war, despite all the improbabilities going on, and, strange as it may sound, as long as they try not to let things get too heavy, “The Hunting Party” rolls merrily along, thanks in large part to an excellent sense of humor. They can’t seem to help themselves, though, and as soon as larger elements come into play, the believability of the situation goes out the window, especially the horribly misconceived ending that feels completely tacked on and, instead of providing a proper cap to the story the way it seems to have been intended, completely robs the film of any power it might have had.

All told, it’s not bad. There’s a really good story in there somewhere and enough of it peeks through that, even with all the heavy romancing going on, “The Hunting Party” still works more often than it doesn’t.

The Extras:
You will find a pretty good selection of bonus features. The usual offerings such as bonus features, an audio commentary, and a ‘making of’ video can be found. But the real highlight is a featurette where writer/director Richard Shepard interviews the journalists who inspired the film. They talk about what really happened and the unbelievable events that took place. It’s surprising how the core story required very little embellishment from Hollywood. This impressive featurette is followed up by a text file of “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”, the original Esquire article that inspired the film.