Richard Gere is an actor who is certainly not shy about casually crossing over between art and politics and back again, and neither is the embellished fact-based satire, The Hunting Party. Gere seems to go wild reveling in his starring role as Simon Hunt, a kind of egghead action hero reporter and borderline lunatic lush. Which means basically, that the emphasis in the title is more on extreme danger junkie journalists partying hard over in the Balkan killing fields, and playing superhero sleuths on their more serious down time. If this type of Eastern European war zone mixed mood genre is not your cup of vodka, it may be more than a bit hard to swallow.
Based on a 2001 Esquire article, What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson, The Hunting Party is directed by Richard Shepard, the guy most responsible for brazenly reinventing Pierce Brosnan as a ready and willing Bond caricature of himself in The Matador. Much like the repugnant Charlie Wilson’s War pink elephants historical point of view, The Hunting Party tags along after Gere’s disgraced alcoholic TV news reporter in his manic quest in 2000 for postwar Sarajevo’s most wanted war criminal, The Fox (Ljubomir Kerekes).
Terence Howard shows up both as narrator and reluctant but loyal sidekick apprentice turned celebrity television journalist thanks to Simon’s mentoring, who feels he owes the madman with an unhealthy overactive newshound imagination. Joining them and forcing the pair into irritating babysitting duty as they make moves on Balkan bar wenches, pop seconals, and dodge the bullets of waiters they stiff and scowling wilderness mobsters alike, is juvenile rookie reporter Benjamin (Jesse Eisenberg), son of the television network VP who insists that the kid be part of their motley crew.
Originally titled Spring Break In Bosnia, likely dropped when common sense kicked in, The Hunting Party seems to go for broke as it takes history lite Hollywood style, when it comes to real life recent wholesale massacres and rapes, to far too playful dramatic extremes. Which brings the pros and cons of fictionalizing history in movies like these, into serious question.
Meanwhile, the CIA gets lots of negative mention, but without ever really explaining why. Chaos and civil war in the former Yugoslavia are distorted in their ‘politics for dummies’ representation more as a natural disaster, rather than complex strategy on the part of multiple political players on the international scene, to incite and perpetrate social disorder, national fragmentation, infiltration, and economic exploitation of a tragically broken nation. And the blame game here, whether of the CIA, US or UN, is more in the nature of passivity, and allowing stuff to just happen. In other words, in a US court of law the charge would be nothing more than something like negligent homicide. Except maybe for that single bad boy, The Fox.
The Hunting Party is more concerned with mounting big screen infotainment and sidebar issues like the all-natural brain viagra lure of ‘that adrenalin rush and nonstop erection of fear and war,’ than making sense of the confounding stage of world history. Which brings us to Gere’s big moment, when he gets to mutter much too self-seriously that, ‘putting your life in danger is actual living, the rest is television.’ Pass the remote.
DVD Features: Six Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary; Audio Commentary By Director Richard Shepard; Making The Hunting Party; From Journalism To Film: Director Richard Shepard Interviews The Writers Of The Original Esquire Article; “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”: The Original Esquire Article.