Directed by, written by and starring Iranian born filmmaker Rafi Potts, 2010's The Hunter follows the exploits of a man named Ali Alavi (Potts) who makes a living as a night watchman at an automobile manufacturing plant. His job isn't particularly exciting but he has a bit of a past (we learn that he did a stint in prison) and he is at least content with it. He gets his only real happiness from his home life where he shares his spare time with his loving wife and young daughter (Mitra Hajja and Saba Yaghoobi). Imagine then his terror when he comes home from work one day and finds that they've gone missing. He contacts the people that you contact in a situation like this and eventually learns that they were innocent victims caught in a crossfire between police forces and rebel insurgent fighters and that now they are gone from his life forever, guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He identifies his wife's body quickly but is unable to identify the body that the police claim is his daughter. He visits the scene where they were shot dead and he lingers around the school she attended, perhaps in hopes that she's still alive. He does all of this with no show of emotion. Eventually, however, something happens inside him and he takes his hunting rifle into the forest outside the city where he used to spend time hunting. Here he targets and then fires upon a police car. The police somehow manage to identify him and of course send their men out to apprehend him and bring him in. A brash young cop and his older partner capture Ali but while escorting him out of the woods, they get lost and soon enough the three are left alone to discover their similarities, differences and motives.
Potts plays his lead character with very little dialogue, instead using body language and facial expressions to convey emotion, particularly sadness and at times even some very raw desperation. This style of acting suits him, his face seems at times to be made of stone, more a sculpture made of granite than anything made of flesh and blood. He does a great job of playing a man hardened not only by the loss of the only two people who mattered in his life but also of a man hardened and quite fed up with the political system that surrounds him and which has proven ineffectual. These political undertones run throughout the film, though the script is smart enough to leave the details of Ali's specific political leanings up to the viewer to decide on their own. The film makes some interesting points about the role of and the effectiveness of the police which maintain law and order in Tehran, particularly once things head into the forest where Ali is left alone with his two captors.
Dark not only thematically but visually as well, The Hunter is a very nicely shot film. There's a chase scene here that takes place in some amazingly foggy hills that will have you on the edge of your seat and which is one of the most impressively tense set pieces you're likely to see any time soon. Potts knows what he's doing both in front of and behind the camera, as the film moves at a good pace and is well structured and edited quite efficiently. The film, as such, is lean - there isn't a lot of padding here, just enough character motivation set up to get the story rolling and enough political allegory to keep things interesting and thought provoking. The film is challenging, intelligent and technically accomplished and it builds nicely to a conclusion that is not only surprising but also entirely appropriate. There's a twist here but it isn't a gimmicky one and while the film subscribes more to minimalism than to flashy visuals, it works and it works well.
The Hunter arrives on DVD in its original 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The picture is clean and clear and about as colorful as you get the impression it should be. This isn't a particularly bright or boldly hued film, rather it makes good use of some fairly drab locations and as such, doesn't quite pop the way some more modern pictures might. The transfer seems to replicate the intended look of the film quite well, however. There are no issues with any serious print damage nor are there any problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement. The end result is an image that is quite film-like and quite pleasing.
The film is presented in its original Farsi language sound mix in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The audio sounds good - there are no issues with the balance or the levels nor are there any problems with hiss or distortion. The subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read and while there could have been more depth to certain scenes, all in all things sound just fine here.
There are no extras here, though we get menus and chapter stops.
The Hunter takes us into very dark territory and it's quite a grim film but so too is it a very well made one. Olive's DVD looks and sounds just fine but contains no extras - which is a shame, as some input from Rafi Pitts would certainly have been quite welcome here. Regardless, the disc comes recommended as the movie is not only very well made on a technical level but well acted and quite tense as well. A solid thriller through and through and worth checking out.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.