Can it be time for a satire about Bosnia?

Posted: September 21, 2007

It's not easy mixing edgy satire and ethnic cleansing, the high-speed antics of a buddy picture with the grim business of torture and rape. And Richard Shepard's The Hunting Party doesn't always succeed in its tricky juggling act, but the balls are up there, spinning. Just having thrown them aloft is a feat.

A frantic, fictionalized adaptation of Scott K. Anderson's Esquire article about a band of journalists on the trail of a Bosnian war criminal, The Hunting Party stars Richard Gere as a veteran TV newsman and Terrence Howard as his longtime cameraman/compatriot. Simon Hunt (Gere) has traveled the far corners of the globe reporting on carnage and chaos, and Duck (Howard) has steadfastly tagged along, dodging projectiles and pointing his lens in the right direction to win the duo a prestigious batch of prizes.

Now, five years since the end of the Bosnian conflict - and five years since Hunt had an on-air meltdown that sent his career into a tailspin - Hunt and Duck have reunited in Sarajevo. Hunt is filing fifth-anniversary-of-peace pieces for anyone who will pay him; Duck is accompanying his network anchorman (James Brolin), who has jetted in to file a field report.

But Hunt wants Duck for something more important: He's got a lead on the Fox, the infamous Serb who presided over mass rapes and murder during the war. Hunt wants his old friend to help him track down the Fox.

Like The Matador, Shepard's dark comedy about the alliance of a hit man and a salesman, The Hunting Party derives much of its tension from watching seemingly "normal" people doing seriously insane stuff. Gere, who seems to have shrugged off his actorly self-seriousness of late (see The Hoax), is crackerjack: funny, flagrant, full of wild lies and huckster charm. Howard (who also provides the voice-over narration) makes the most of what is essentially a supporting role. Jesse Eisenberg, the older kid in The Squid and the Whale, plays the wet-behind-the-ears son of a network exec. Fresh out of J-school, he now finds himself in the passenger seat of a beat-up car snaking up Balkan mountain roads, in the company of a crazed TV news legend and a smiling, guitar-strumming cameraman.

In search of what? An interview with the Fox (Ljubomir Kerekes), or the millions in bounty for his capture?

Throw in some business with the CIA, add a small army of Serbian thugs and a mysterious Croatian beauty, and The Hunting Party picks up speed, careening through the forests where the Fox may or may not be hiding out. Whatever fate awaits, it can't be good. But it can be fun.


The Hunting Party *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Richard Shepard. With Richard Gere, Terrence Howard and Jesse Eisenberg. Distributed by the Weinstein Co. Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.

Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity, adult themes)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.

|
|
|
|
|