“Night Hunter” is a blind date of a thriller, the sort of movie you describe in vague “Well, it’s interesting” terms, words like “surprising” figuring into the sales pitch.
Of course, “warped” works, too. And “twisted.” “Cracked and incoherent” fit the best.
There are some good performances and good lines in writer-director David Raymond’s debut feature. But there’s a lot of clutter, convoluted craziness and head-slappingly illogical turns in here, too.
It’s about that hottest-of-hot-button topics, serial sexual predators. Only here they aren’t rich, well-connected and American, they’re Canadian and pursued by two-fisted “This gun doesn’t have a safety on it” cop Marshall (Henry Cavill) and newly-promoted-to-profiler, touchy-feely Rachel (Alexandra Daddario).
Before we can get a handle on who is making young women disappear in the frozen north (Winnipeg, Manitoba), we see one of these predators strip his shirt off his pot-bellied chest in front of foul-mouthed, sarcastic Lara (Eliana Jones of TV’s “Heartland” and “Saving Hope”).
He has no time to register her nasty, snappy comeback. He’s promptly knocked out — handcuffed to a hotel bed, freshly castrated and being given bottles of pills by his captor (Ben Kingsley).
“Take one every day…for the rest of your life,” he orders. “It’s a testosterone suppressant.”
Apparently, Cooper (Kinglsey) is a retired judge with the resources and wherewithal to become judge, jury and we can guess executioner of the sort of folks he used to see get away.
But the movie isn’t about hunting this “Night Hunter.” Oh no.
Cooper and Lara clumsily lead the cops to catch a monster in their midst. Simon (Brendan Fletcher of TV’s “Arrow”) is deranged, perhaps schizophrenic and deaf.
And when Rachel’s sweet “good cop” questioning — they figure he has young women locked up somewhere — gets her nowhere, it’s lucky for us the police commissioner (the great Stanley Tucci) is on the other side of the mirror-window and ready to cut to the chase.
“He’s very very comfortable in there.”
Marshall storms in and changes that, in a flash — “BAD” cop in capital letters.
But as cops are killed and bombs go off and the investigating team (Nathan Fillion has a thankless part as a computerized crime expert) is threatened, we strongly suspect that Simon has “help.”
The cops are a little slower to grasp that. And as Rachel struggles with crazed, deaf Simon’s mind-games and Marshall tries to get the demented judge and his testy bait to cooperate, we can only fret over what horrors lie ahead.
Tucci’s commissioner gets all the best lines. “Shake the tree. Arrest every f—–g thing that falls.” “Gotta pen? No comment.”
Cavill’s natural British accent isn’t explained, and he’s saddled with playing a cliche here — hair and beard of the Jason Patric (“Rush”) school, apartment not remotely unpacked because he’s newly split from his wife (Minka Kelly), barely accommodating their gullible, young teen daughter (Emma Tremblay) who seems like online prey in the making.
Daddario (“Baywatch,” the “Percy Jackson” movies) is the kinder, gentler (and thus ineffective) cop cliche. “If you’d just give me time to get through to him!”
Kingsley makes speeches about how “Eighty percent of sex offenders re-offend. And yet we let them out.” And Fletcher gives us a villain as utter monster — repellent, dull-witted (at least in the personality Rachel gets to speak with), cursing “creepers” and yet delighted at “The Game” this pursuit is to him.
Writer-director Raymond makes rather a hash out of how all these pieces fit, clumsily shoehorning in the Kingsley avenging angels story wherever he can.
Hey, you write a nice part for an Oscar winner, you’ve got to get him in the movie even if his part of it is the second most far-fetched and doesn’t really work as a subplot.
An avenging judge chasing murderous sex criminals (and non-murderous ones) is a movie by itself.
Thrillers invite us to try and untangle their plots along with the heroes, challenge us with dire situations that make us puzzle how hero or heroine will escape this or that scenario. Raymond utterly botches these tests, especially the climax, which he then chases with a pointless coda.
Logic, by the way, has gone out the window early on and made only rare return appearances.
“Night Hunter” is good enough that we can see why a cast of this caliber would sign on and trek to Canada in the winter. There are good scenes, good lines, a couple of good performances.
But whatever coherence the players saw on the screenplay page was lost in the trip from page to the shoot on set, and from the set to the editing bay, from the looks of it.
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, language throughout, and some sexual references
Cast: Henry Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Brendan Fletcher, Minka Kelly, Nathan Fillion.
Credits: Written and directed by David Raymond. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:39