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The Hunter (1980)  

Review: written Sept 2007

Limp final offering from the great McQueen

It must have looked like a winner on paper - the foremost action hero of his age - true life story of bounty hunter, car chases, human story, terrific cast with a real chance for acting... It's not a disaster, but it's a limp effort at either a character piece, a bio, or an action movie even though it has elements of all three.

The movie covers a period in the life of the real life bounty hunter (supposedly the last...), `Papa' Thorsen. His exploits catching various guys on the run, are contrasted with his life at home where he not only has a soft spot for lost causes, but has a beautiful wife pregnant with his child. Some semblance of drama to drive the movie along is given by one of McQueen's ex catches getting out of jail and threatening to kill him (yawn). McQueen tries hard to go against type and add various character touches, so we get a man who drives badly and cant park properly (an in-joke on McQueen's legendary driving skills, but taken way too far), he loves old things - vintage wind up toys, pocket watches - but with no reason other than to provide `character'. He does not like the birth classes his wife goes to - but lo and behold turns out to be a trooper in the end. It does not entirely work - instead, we are left with a recognizable (though clearly aging) McQueen with various layers of mannerisms and affections.

Supporting cast should save the day - Kathryn Harrold as the long suffering girlfriend is one of the best things in the picture. Every now and again there is a grand entrance of a character - Ben Johnson's sheriff for example - but then 5 minutes later he vanishes without fanfare. Only Eli Wallach hovers around for the greater part of the picture, and a youthful Levar Burton, post-Roots, pre-Star Trek The Next Generation has presence, but no reason to be there.

There are a couple of interesting set pieces - the car chase in the multi storey car park, the shootout on the train - but without a plot or story to hang on, they fall flat.

Steve McQueen is almost always worth a watch, but here the vehicle for once just isn't enough for the great man. A shame his last film was so lacklustre.

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