Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Hunter’s Prayer: Sam Worthington Shoots Up and Shoots ‘Em Up

Don’t worry. Martin Hatto’s dog will be just fine. Unfortunately, the maid will not be so lucky. She will take a bullet between the eyes just as she is letting the pooch out for the night. Nor will he or his second wife survive the prologue, but we really don’t care about them, do we? His daughter is off at a Swiss boarding school, where “Lucas” the world-weary hitman was supposed to cap her. Instead, he came down with a bad case of conscience and decides to protect her instead in Jonathan Mostow’s The Hunter’s Prayer (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Hatto laundered money for the American operation of British financier-drug lord Richard Addison, so naturally he was skimming off the top. To teach a lesson to his other underlings, Addison put out hits on the entire Hatto family. However, Lucas had second thoughts when the sight of Ella Hatto made him all sentimental for the daughter he never met. After Lucas foils an attempt on her life, Addison gives him an ultimatum: either kill Hatto or his estranged family dies. While this leaves him a bit conflicted, his hardcore intravenous drug addiction makes him even more unreliable. However, Lucas can still kill with ease, even in the midst of serious DTs, with one veiny arm tied behind his back.

Frankly, Prayer is a refreshingly lean and unfussy action movie, unencumbered with any narrative fat or extraneous message-making. Addison wants Hatto dead, so he has people try over and over and over again. What does it have to say about the refugee crisis? Absolutely nothing, except maybe it is ridiculously easy to smuggle someone over the Swiss/French border.

As it happens, Lucas is exactly the sort of brooding tortured action protagonist that is totally in Sam Worthington’s wheelhouse. Forget the dreadful Avatar and Clash of the Titans movies and check him out in Hacksaw Ridge, The Debtand the criminally under-rated Texas Killing Fields. Throughout Prayer he looks he has just weathered the worst convulsions of withdrawal. It is certainly not what you would call a vain performance.

Allen Leech (the marrying-up chauffeur in Downton Abbey) chews the scenery as best he can, but he just doesn’t have the desired malevolent presence. Israeli thesp Odeya Rush shows more poise and presence than we probably have a right to expect in the run-and-whine role of Ella Hatto. To round things out, Verónica Echegui adds sophisticated femme fatalism as Lucas’s dealer-fixer, Danni.

Like Lucas (usually), Prayer gets the job done. It is blessedly free of pretense and slack. Simplicity of purpose is always a virtue, particularly in this case. Recommended for anyone who appreciates throwback action-thrillers, The Hunter’s Prayer opens this Friday (6/6) in New York, at the Village East.