Saturday, September 22, 2007

Muriel Awards 2007 FYC #5

Best Screenplay: Richard Shepard, The Hunting Party

Is Richard Shepard the most underappreciated filmmaker in America? Based on the lukewarm reaction from critics and moviegoers to his last two films, 2005's The Matador and the recent release The Hunting Party, it's quite possible. Both of these films possess a very specific brand of humor, caustic and foul-mouthed, but rooted firmly in strong characters. Likewise, the films deal with honest-to-goodness adult characters, people who've been around the block a few times and are living with decisions that took them far from the lives they hoped they'd have. This is especially true of The Hunting Party, which tells the story of three reporters- a down-on-his-luck correspondent (Richard Gere), a network cameraman (Terrence Howard), and a spoiled greenhorn on the make (Jesse Eisenberg)- who stake everything on a quixotic quest to locate a warlord nicknamed "The Fox" who's hiding in the war-torn Balkans. Much of the film plays as comedy, but there's also real emotional heft here, from Gere's deep-seated reasons for hunting down The Fox to Shepard's completely unironic portrayal of male bonding. How many other recent films would contain man-to-man dialogue that concludes with "that's why I love you" without going for a homophobic snicker? The Hunting Party is also the rare film about wartime journalism that doesn't shy away from the adrenaline rush that battlefield reporters seek- as Gere says in the film, "putting your life in danger is actual living. The rest is just television." The Hunting Party is one of the best films of recent months, but it's getting trounced at the box office, and I hope that audiences will discover the film when it comes to DVD.

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