Playing one of the biggest characters cinema has to offer can be a mixed blessing. Just ask Henry Cavill. Taking over the Superman mantle catapulted him into the spotlight, but his post-Man Of Steel outings in the same role haven’t exactly been comfortable and the quest to find parts to stretch his range as an actor has been a bumpy. Admittedly, he was smart enough to dodge the bullet that was Stratton (2017) and his most recent appearance in Mission:Impossible – Fallout showed that things were perhaps looking up.
But somehow he didn’t see Night Hunter coming. And with a cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillian, you can understand the initial appeal of what looks like a half decent contemporary manhunt thriller but what turns out to be a complete mess. It does, however, start off with a certain amount of promise, a young girl fleeing a menacing figure in the dark. There’s a predator on the loose, preying on young girls – but there’s also a vigilante on the loose as well, doling out their own form of justice and that vicious meddling leads the cops, with Cavill in the forefront, to the culprit, a particularly unhinged individual. They manage to save several girls locked away in his basement, but how many more has he killed? And why is there a lingering impression that he’s not working alone?
That, believe it or not, is a simplified version of the plot. Anything more detailed would take the rest of this review and wouldn’t make any more sense – because it’s a narrative that meanders all over the place and, just as you think you’ve got a handle on it, something else gets thrown in to muddy the waters even more. That something is either of questionable relevance or just a terrible cliché, the prime example of which comes at the very end, giving a finale that’s little more than risible.
The tantalising prospect of the film having something serious to say doesn’t help. It dabbles with the issue of the treatment of sex offenders – should they ever be let out of prison, how many of them re-offend – but sets out the two opposing views in an especially cumbersome scene between Cavill and Kingsley, an ex-judge who also happens to be that vigilante. Their views are polar opposites, they spout them – and that’s as far as it goes. Writer/director David Raymond backed down from having something meaningful to say, and the film floats along rudderless, without any sense of direction. A waste, given that it’s not just a contemporary subject, but one with enough shades of grey to fuel a number of other films.
It’s not the only waste, because the same goes for the cast. Cavill is a brooding cop, this time sporting facial hair that he makes no attempt to cover up, and he has the inevitable broken marriage and beloved daughter to worry about. Not that it’s a role that stretches him much and Tucci is in the same boat. As Cavill’s boss, he hardly changes expression or tone throughout and you get the distinct impression that he just took the cheque and ran like hell. And Kingsley’s judge-turned-vigilante is such a ludicrous character, he does the only thing he can with the part. Go totally over the top. The big mystery, bigger than the plot itself, is why Nathan Filllian is in it at all, lingering in the background, with about half a dozen lines of dialogue and that’s about his lot. Half a day’s work at the most.
Without a coherent theme to hold it together, Night Hunter feels like it’s been slapped together – a cliché here, a trope there – with little thought for consistency or anything else and makes for a depressing, uncomfortable and frustrating watch. This reviewer saw it so you don’t have to. A cliché, admittedly, but not out of place when talking about this movie.
Freda Cooper | [rating=1]
Crime, Thriller, Drama | Cert:15 | UK, 13 September (2019) | Signature Entertainment | Dir. David Raymond | Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Alexandra Daddario, Nathan Fillian.