I settled in to watch The Hunting Party with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. On the one hand, I usually like anything starring Richard Gere, and on the other, it could easily turn into one of those elaborately political epics that George Clooney has been so fond of lately. Thankfully, The Hunting Party is a linear, wryly funny, and compelling film based on true events. This is why I’d totally invite Richard Gere in for tea if he showed up at my door, and why I’d hide behind a chair and pretend I wasn’t home if George Clooney came knocking.
It’s 1994 when the film begins, and Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) is at the top of his game as a war correspondent. With the help of his intrepid cameraman, Duck (Terrence Howard), Hunt puts his life on the line to bring the realities of life in war-torn Bosnia to the rest of the world. Then one day he just loses it. On air. He goes into a drunken tirade rife with political incorrectness and sprinkled with profanity, and life as he knows it comes to an end right there. He loses his job and spends the next several years adrift, eventually working as an independent in some of the most dangerous and obscure war zones on the globe.
As Simon’s life goes down the drain, Duck finds himself flying high. He’s promoted at the same time Simon is fired, and spends his days globe-trotting and schmoozing with beautiful women. By the time Simon resurfaces years later, Duck has lost his edge. Risking it all for the sake of a story no longer seems worthwhile, but Simon convinces him that he’s got the scoop of the century—he knows where to find “The Fox”, one of Bosnia’s most wanted and most elusive war criminals. How can you top that?!
Duck reluctantly agrees to accompany Simon in his quest, and his young assistant, Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg), an intelligent but inexperienced Harvard grad, comes along for the ride. The three journalists travel deep into hostile territory, and just when it’s too late to turn back, Simon announces his intent to capture The Fox and collect the five million dollar reward. Benjamin thinks he’s insane, that this is just more grandstanding on Hunt’s part, but we soon learn that Simon has very personal reasons for wanting to take down The Fox. All at once, it becomes clear that Simon is not a thrill-seeking smartass, but a brokenhearted man who simply wants revenge. As a master of quiet defiance and thinly-veiled vulnerability, Gere couldn’t be more perfectly cast in this role. He’s the kind of guy who can cry defeated tears of anguish and frustration, then stand up, wipe his eyes, and single-handedly stick it to the system. Rock on, Richard Gere!
The hunting party goes on a harrowing quest to do something The CIA, The UN, and The Hague were unable to manage in all the years they were supposed to be looking. On top of that, they have to come up with a way to get out alive. It’s a suspenseful journey that’s well worth taking, and it certainly raises questions about our international system of justice.
Extra features include commentary by writer/director Richard Shepard, deleted scenes with optional director commentary, the theatrical trailer, and a “Making Of” featurette. You can also delve into the story behind the movie with “The Real Hunting Party” as Richard Shepard interviews the journalists featured in the Esquire article upon which the film is based. The article itself, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” by Scott Anderson is also included on the DVD. Who doesn’t love to watch a crazy ass-kicking movie only to find out that it’s based on a true story?!