A sort of primitive eco-thriller with initial contemporary brushes has Willem Dafoe (John Carter) and Sam Neill in the same picture for a third time (the last being the hardly recognized Daybreakers).
The former is the putative star in The Hunter which also stars Frances O'Connor (The Wind That Shakes The Barley and A.I.) as Martin David, a ruthless, if keen modern mercenary.
A rendezvous in Paris with Middleman (Jacek Koman) leads to his retaining by the enigmatic fellow and his organization to go to island-state Tasmania and locate a purported, if elusive Thylacine, aka, Tasmanian Tiger. There are vested interests in the genetic information of an animal, alive or dead, which could be extinct.
An interesting aspect of the screenplay contributed by Julia Leigh (who made the recent rather exploitative Sleeping Beauty with Emily Browning of Sucker Punch) situates the bearded David into a remote area as a boarder of prescription-medicated mother Lucy Armstrong (O'Connor) with two young children Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodluck). Lucy's zoologist husband Jarrah has been missing for a while, so it's been their neighbor Jack Mindy (Neill of The Vow) whose been more than vigilant and overprotective to a lamenting family.
So, the dynamics set up in a measured way by helmer Daniel Nettheim raises more than its share of questions, though its atmosphere and brooding nature with a sense of dread will easily attract a discerning (art-house) audience. An environmental element, a tenuous domestic situation, and Martin's methodical approach in taming his prey come together artfully, but maybe not ideally in melodramatic terms.
Nonetheless, Dafoe (in a change from his more common darkly eccentric portraits, think Shadow of a Vampire) turns out to be a smart choice (perhaps for some Hollywood clout instead of a lesser known native thespian bloke to the detriment of many in the land Down Under) to put some steely, restrained shadings in a character more than slivery affectation. O'Connor (whose priorities have afforded her less screen time these days) and Neill are noteworthy in backup. Even a mute-like Woodluck and especially Davies as Bike's outspoken sister seem to relish their smaller parts.
Nettheim overall entraps the viewer in more than a teasing or enticing way in a more seasoned production than expected that makes great use of its rugged, harsh landscape working with lenser Robert Humphreys to create skillful widescreen compositions. A fairly spare, if well-modulated score suits the sometimes uneasy atmosphere and settings as David seems to prefer classical tracks on his iPod while Bruce Springsteen is heard on a turntable.