The Hunter’s Prayer opens with a bang. Actually, three bangs, as Metzgar (Martin Compston) an assassin has shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Hatto (Eben Young and Stephanie Dooley) and their housekeeper, Rosa (Tina Maskell). Next on the hit list is Ella Hatto (Odeya Rush), a sixteen year-old in a Swiss boarding school. When Ella sneaks off to a nightclub one night, she is a target for death, but Lucas (Sam Worthington) saves her during a chase scene/shootout. However, as Richard Addison (Allen Leech) has hired Lucas to kill Ella, his rescuing her puts both of their lives in jeopardy.
Richard wants Ella for the money her parents left her, money her father stole from Richard. While Ella trusts Lucas, at times she is not so sure she should. He is a junkie, who seems to be putting his interests first. The Hunter’s Prayer never spends too long on character development. Ella asks Lucas how to kill people, and shames him for his drug use, which prompts him to quit by going cold turkey. This the pretty much the extent of the film’s drama.
Director Jonathan Mostow (who helmed the nifty B-movie thriler Breakdown 20 years ago) focuses mainly on the action. There are shootouts in train stations, and in cafes, and in the big fancy mansion where Richard Addison lives. The action scenes move at a brisk clip, but are perfunctory at best as this passable B-movie lumbers from one set piece to the next.
The Hunter’s Prayer, which is based on the novel For the Dogs by Kevin Wignall, is not without some enjoyable moments. There is a kitschy scene where Richard tests the dogs he is breeding on a “man who won’t be missed,” and there is a terrific sequence on a train where Dani (Verónica Echegui) turns up to fix Lucas’s injured leg and possibly steer him to do some drugs. Does she have a nefarious plan to get Ella, or is Dani trying to save the young girl from danger? The Hunter’s Prayer is best during these ambiguous moments.
However, too often, the characters (or the film) tip their hand. When Richard’s young son is seen practicing archery, and dad comments on what a bad shot he is, it’s no surprise to see who the target is when he hits the bull’s eye. If only the film was a bit less on the nose.
Sam Worthington goes through the paces as Lucas, and while he is fine with the action stuff, he gives a mostly taciturn performance, failing to make his character’s wrinkles—which include the aforementioned drug addiction, being estranged from his daughter, and suffering from PTSD after being in Fallujah— credible. His co-star Odeya Rush does much more with much less. Ella is sympathetic as she puzzles out who to trust as her world turns upside down.
The Hunter’s Prayer is certainly an undemanding film, but for action fans who want a programmer for a slow night, it might be just the ticket.
The Hunter’s Prayer opens in Philly theaters today.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.