Rafi Pitts' thriller, The Hunter opens in a stylish punk-rock fashion, with an almost pop-art presentation of a pro revolutionary photograph. A complete contrast to the brooding, provocative character piece which comes after. Directing and starring in the film, Pitt plays the quiet family man, Ali who deals with the grief of losing his wife and daughter in the middle of a dissident shooting. Unsure as to whom may have committed the act, he starts to brood uncontrollably as he soughs to learn the truth, with killer consequences.
The first act was quite an interesting experience, giving a fascinating insight into modern family life, in Iran. As the film progresses Ali paints a figure as forlorn and detached from the world as the cold urban surroundings he occupies. Not sure how often you can compare an Iranian to an American, but there was definitely comparisons able to be drawn between the main protagonist and George Clooney's excellent portrayal in last year's The American especially in the slow long drawn out moments with minimal dialogue - with even slight nods towards the classic film, The Deer Hunter. Despite the political tension which is ever present through The Hunter, it's never really the driving force or truly detracts from the story Pitts was trying to tell.
While elements of the story remain drenched in ambiguity it was, on a technical and visual level, a highly accomplished film. Epic cinematography with a real visceral use of the natural sounds of urban jungle, the protagonist uses. The last act which features a rather tense car chase and an exploration into a foggy forest is both serene and quite unsettling.
The additional extras on the DVD are as sparse as the film's dialogue, containing simply an interesting interview with Pitts into his motivations for making the film and how he was to become the film's lead actor. This isn't to say the film was perfect as it was, perhaps, too ponderous and psychological for its own good at times, and there were moments where it was crying for some action or an extra bit of violence here and there. Sometimes coming across as, well, boring.
The Hunter is a dark and emotional story exploring one man's struggle with grief as he seeks retribution on the people who wreaked this sadness upon him. The Hunter was a fascinating first venture into Iranian cinema for me, I'm intrigued to see what else is there, though despite the beautifully shot sequences and intelligent storytelling it often suffers from a lack of genuine spark, not to mention a stupidly abrupt ending.
The Hunter is available on DVD from Monday February 28th 2011.