I think this film gave me my biggest surprise of the year.
Except for the
opening credit sequence, the first 44 minutes of this movie are god-awful,
consisting of melodramatic situations populated by cardboard characters being
acted by performers who couldn't get decent roles in dinner theater. I was
wondering how this film could have been directed by Thom Eberhardt, an
experienced 60-year-old man who has directed such competent films as:
- Without A Clue, which stars Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley as Sherlock
Holmes and Doctor Watson
- Captain Ron, a pretty funny lowbrow comedy starring Martin Short and
The opening credits show a yokel wearing his hunting gear, tracking down
and shooting a naked girl. She is only wounded, so he approaches her and
shoots her in the head with a handgun, as one might do with a wounded buck.
That scene was actually very effective, offering some hope that the film would
That hope would soon be dashed.
The scene then switches to a small desert town which has recently
experienced an epidemic of missing strippers. There's no mystery about what
will happen. The fate of the missing girls is obvious, and it is only a matter
of time before the naive new stripper becomes the latest girl recruited to be
the Most Dangerous Game. It takes 44 minutes of tedious exposition and
irrelevant sub-plots to bring the hunter and his naked prey together for the
start of that hunt, and they are 44 of the most amateurish minutes ever put
onto film by en experienced filmmaker. I was cursing my fate that I had to
watch this (for the reported nudity). I was in an especially sour mood because
even the nudity in the first 44 minutes is a tease.
And then I got my surprise.
Once the movie began in earnest, with the actual pursuit, it became
spellbinding. The stiff line readings became irrelevant because it was just an
man chasing a naked woman through the woods. No need for them to deliver any Wildean dialogue, or any other dialogue for that matter. And Eberhardt
suddenly remembered what he was supposed to do to make a film suspenseful and
exciting. Not only that, his direction became very smooth. He used camera
angles, including overheads, to show the strategic maneuvers of the two actors
on their outdoor chessboard, occasionally to demonstrate how close they could
be without one being aware of the other's presence. He used POV techniques
effectively to show when one of them found another. He used foreshadowing to
focus in on important items that could be used as weapons or on terrain that
could be used by the girl to hide or escape or plan an ambush. As long as
those two characters were the focus of the film, I never gave a single thought
to the passage of time until the hunt had reached a conclusion.
There were still a couple of clunky scenes which took place back in town as
people noticed first that the girl was missing, and then that the yokel hadn't
returned on schedule. Those cutaways may have been necessary to the plot, and
they were mercifully short, but since they were expository, they required more
badly-delivered dialogue. The good news is that once the action returned to
the wilderness, the film again became suspenseful and interesting, and moved
along beautifully except when dialogue was needed. What's more, there were
some interesting, unexpected and credible plot twists out there in the outback
as one of them, then the other, gained the upper hand in a seesaw battle.
In fact, if this film had started in minute 44, I would be raving about
what a beautifully paced indie film it is. Unfortunately that is not the case,
so all I can say is what I started with: what an incredible surprise. If you
were to divide this picture into two films, you would start with a very bad
44-minute film. Who could expect that to be followed by a taut, riveting
60-minute film, using the same characters, filmed and performed by the same