A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Richard Gere action dramedy takes place primarily in violent war zones (Somalia) and post-war zones (Bosnia) that are hotbeds of brutality. Both in the present and in flashbacks, scenes are filled with explosions, shooting, careening cars, and people being wounded and killed. One war criminal wields an axe with particular ferocity and threatens the heroes during a torture scene; a particularly horrific, bloody flashback shows a dead pregnant woman whose baby has been cut out of her. Expect lots of language (particularly "f--k"), some cleavage shots and bare breasts, and frequent smoking and drinking (with some minor drunkenness), with some discussion of drugs.
What's the story?
You've heard, of course, that war is hell. But in THE HUNTING PARTY, when Duck (Terrence Howard) says that "war has its bright side as well," he speaks with the sort of authority that comes with experience. "Being that close to death," he says, "being that alive, it's addictive." The movie opens on a Somalian war zone: Amid explosions and small arms fire, Duck, a cameraman, scampers with his TV reporter partner, Simon Hunt (Richard Gere). Duck admires Simon's unflappable world-weariness, and, even more, his commitment to show "truth." When Simon loses that desire and has a meltdown on camera, Duck moves on to a new job and Simon fades away, drinking his way from one war to the next, hoping to make it back into the business he loves. They meet again in Bosnia, a decade after the war. Duck is accompanied by a youngster in need of knowledge: the network VP's son, Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg). All three proceed to embark on an adventure, pursuing an interview with notorious Bosnian war criminal "the Fox" (Ljubomir Kerekes). Mysterious locals offer warnings, ill-equipped cops avoid engagements, and U.N. monitors declare their inability to do anything, according to their gunless mandate. Through it all, the reporters find themselves, as their mutual bonds and faith in justice build.
Is it any good?
Inspired by a 2000 Esquire magazine article by Scott Anderson, Richard Shepard's The Hunting Party begins with a snarky caution against believing what you see. "Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true," it advises, yet it generally distrusts viewers to keep up without prodding at every turn. While you could argue that sentimentalizing Simon's original breakdown (it has to do with a lost romance, in brutal fashion) makes a case for his core morality, the effect is to cheapen his investment in what he's calling "truth." The Fox's story is personal for Simon, and so the film loses sight of the context it would seem to care so much about -- the Fox's victims, the Bosnian Muslims and Croats who were raped, tortured, dismembered, and killed.
The story of the Fox -- which indicts international wheelers and dealers who profit from such a man's evasion of "justice," as well as the world leaders who benefit from his fearsome legend -- is obviously meant to suggest both Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Osama Bin Laden. More than once, The Hunting Party raises the specter of Chuck Norris as an example of the cartoonish embodiment of revenge and heroism. Such plots and heroes surely need satirizing, especially as they continue to inform political and military endeavors. Still, The Hunting Party plays smug, ensuring that it misses a range of deserving targets while picking off the easy ones.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media portrays reporters. Do TV shows and movies make journalism seem like a glamorous career? How realistic do you think that is? What do you think reporting from a war zone is really like? Families can also discuss journalists' responsibilities. Do they have a moral or ethical duty when they see terrible violence or crimes? If so, what is that duty?