Shekarchi (The Hunter)
It’s strange because reading the different blurbs will have you thinking you’re going to see different films, and then seeing the actual film itself doesn’t seem to quite live up to any of them.
The plot is pretty simple. We begin following a man who has to work the night shift to earn a living for his wife and child, he never really sees them but he can’t transfer to day shift due to some black mark in his past, something that is never explained in the film. One day he returns home to find his wife and child gone, and after waiting an unknown amount of time to find they haven't returned home he goes to the police. There he finds that his wife has been killed in the crossfire in a gun battle between police and insurgents and his daughter is missing. It takes a further couple of days for her body to be identified.
Feeling something, we're not entirely sure what, he decides to take his hunting rifle out on the city commuters along the major roads around the city which soon leads to a police chase and him being caught in the middle of two policemen who have their own agendas.
There's a little confusion in the opening scenes about what's actually happening in the film and the time-frame of the events. Scenes mirror each other in content but take place in different locations and different times, and this raises the question that there might be some playing with time-lines that haunts you through some of these opening scenes, and until I got that out of my head I was struggling with the opening, for it's not the case at all.
Also through the opening sequences of the character driving through the city, obviously there to introduce us to the location which we haven't often seen in film, we hear political speeches on the radio, and with the initial credits image of the Iranian street filled with Iranians on their Harley Davidsons lined up in front of an American flag painted on the ground, an interesting image to open the film with.
During the first half you do realise that the film is going slowly but here you think it's about building the situation and the characters, something that I found I was quite forgiving on, for when the story began to move forward I felt myself with the film again.
However there's another dip right after the man identifies the body of his wife, his search for his daughter feels overly long and again nothing happens until out of the blue they discover the body. Here's where I felt they could have injected some drama to the film during one of these dips, for we see him identifying the bodies from a distance through a few doorways, a very detached and unemotional view which doesn't draw us to the character at all or try to build or explain what he's feeling and his coming actions.
Here we have another dip where the character, and indeed the film, doesn't seem to do anything until he just appears on the hillside and starts scoping cars passing by on the main freeway. This perhaps marks the strongest moments of the film, when we see him scope and track a few cars until he sights a police car. When he first on it we have that same distanced view and the detached feeling of the events really hammered home what was happening. What surprised me is that for the little we see, the effect on me was very hard.
I'm used to seeing a lot of violent scenes in film, and although I don't believe the hype that it contributes to evil in society, I do believe that we get desensitised to any action on screen when it's repeated, that goes for violence, twists, plot changes, anything, the more you see it happening, the more you recognise it's coming, and the less effective it is. So to see what an impact this scene had on me was surprising, and I mean that as a good thing for the film.
From here I really thought that the film was going to pick up from here, and it is followed with an interesting take on the traditional car chase. Well, it is after we see some more drawn out scenes without any dialogue, stretching the story again and the audience's patience. However, when we do see the car chase through the hills and the fog what we see is not the Hollywood led stunt driving, but a far more realistic chase with cars driving wide on tight corners, sliding and spinning round. I liked the fact that it was made very real, and it actually carried more excitement for that than some Hollywood chases because it introduced an extra element of danger.
From here on the film is back to being slow, without dialogue from the main character, and without much direction for the story. What should be happening is the new plot thread built between the two policemen that's going to involve our lead character in an important moment for everyone, however I didn't feel it was properly built, and perhaps it's a cultural thing through the script, but most of the dialogue came across as banter between the two and it didn't really feel that serious until the events are upon us.
When the final events of the film happen we are left wondering what the motivation of the character was. I can't really discuss this without giving it away, but it's clear that there are two choices for the lead character, and it's not clear if he felt he had this choice and what he did. While I like the open ended aspect of this question, I do wish we had a little more indication.
I have to say that there are few actual scenes where you felt you sat up and took notice. There were perhaps four scenes that were good which were padded around with shots of the city and driving through it, plenty of visuals but no actual dramatic action or even dialogue. There are many things left unexplained and unexplored, like why the character can't go on to day shift and has to remain on night shift.
I think there's something to be said of the film Falling Down here, for something it does well is the escalation of the small events into medium and then large events and the escalation of the lead's frustration and anger. That isn't apparent here, he just seems to slightly snap and almost immediately come back together again and go back to normal. It didn't quite work for me.
The overall view though is that the film is really slow and stretches out scenes far too long. Editing it down the film could have been much shorter, or there could have been a bit more drama and pace injected in the other scenes, perhaps even some insight into the lead character and his story.
For when one of the more dramatic moments that caused me to mouth at the screen "no" turns out to be when the lead character is getting rid of his American muscle car that you've been watching drive round the city, you know that the film isn't really holding you.