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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.19.10] Iran movie review thriller

Year: 2010
Directors: Rafi Pitts
Writers: Rafi Pitts
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 5 out of 10

Rafi Pitts, the award winning Iranian director of The Fifth Season, has written, directed and produced this film, which he is also the star of - and man it shows! Ostensibly a look at the reaction of a former prisoner to the tragic death of his family, it's a slow and frustrating mishmash of ideas that must have looked great on paper but on film have no flow, and a completely out of left field third act.

Ali Alavi (Pitts) is released from prison and takes a job as night watchman at a car factory, although he'd rather have the day shift so as to spend more time with his wife and young daughter. He works hard and provides for them, even taking them out to the funfair. During his drives to and from work he listens to the news on the radio and hears talk of political unrest, protests and upcoming elections in Iran. His days blend into one another until he returns home and finds his family missing. A three hour wait at the police station later and he's given the worst possible news. As a reaction Ali takes his trusty sniper rifle, climbs the hill above a busy stretch of motorway and blows away a police car.

We then (jarringly) cut to an admittedly expertly shot car chase through mountain roads shrouded with mist, as the cops have caught-up with him (this happened when?). Avi crashes his car and runs into the forest, desperate to avoid capture. When the police finally find and cuff him, they realise that they are hopelessly lost and must find a way back onto the main road. One cop is good (ex-military) the other bad (about as corrupt as you can get).

The problem with The Hunter lies in it's inability to answer this question: What are you doing here? One moment it's a drama, the next tragedy, along comes political intrigue which gives way to this weird and very unexpected look at power play between Avi and the two policemen. It just can't settle on being one film but tries it's hand at many, and the audience is baffled and, thanks to the achingly slow pace - the first half hour is just him working at his job - very dull. Honestly, after seeing this my friend and I were stifling yawns and he said he needed caffeine or he'd fall asleep at the next screening. There are also bizarre flashbacks/flashforwards that I know now from reading, were supposed to be indicative of Ali enjoying a hunting trip, but were edited into the film in such a way as to suggest them happening in his mind.

Writer/director/actors are a rare breed as the key to great filmmaking normally comes from collective work of many people. If the script isn't working, the director might consult with the writer and run it by the producer until everyone is happy that they're on track. This film reeks of the self-indulgence that has plagued many other writer/directors, when nobody is there to tell them that something isn't working. The Lady In The Water, Death Proof, Southland Tales, Hollywood Ending; all films by directors I admire, but misfires nonetheless. Pitts is obviously a talented guy with a good eye, but as with his others film, should maybe hire another writer next time.

As is, the film is very lush and well shot and finely acted. This doesn't save it from being a completely indulgent mess that bored me to tears (well, yawns anyway).

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