Movie Review: Kidnapped, she gets away — only to be “Hunted”

Amy Adams became a movie star playing a princess living in a land out of a fairytale, someone so “Enchanted” she could summon her forest creature friends to help her get through her day.

The English-language French thriller “Hunted?” Basically the same movie, with kidnapping, torture, bloody wounds and plot twists nuttier than anything in “The Disney Version.”

It’s a very violent woodlands parable from the co-director and screenwriter of “Persepolis,” Vincent Paronnaud. It’s a little bit “High Tension” and a lot “Alone,” with pieces of pretty much any woman-on-the-run from kidnappers movie tucked in.

Except that it’s a lot nuttier than that. It’s an escape-and-avenge fantasy that never quite settles on a tone, and never quite matches the over-the-top third act laughs to the eye-rolling opening acts, all of it bathed in bloody violence.

When wild boars, a snake, an elk, a crow and others conspire to help our damsel in distress, on the run from guys with duct tape, a camcorder, Viagra, a taser and box cutters, you have to appreciate the novelty, even if removing the animal touches would make it utterly conventional and very grim going.

“Hunted” begins with a woman telling a story (animated, with live action human silhouettes) of “the wolf girl” and “the song of the forest.” Sometimes, the forest and its creatures rise up to defend the innocent is the moral of that story.

Eve, played by Lucie Debay (“Melody”) is a Belgian English-speaking construction supervisor out in the countryside on a job. A simple drink in a bar, rebuffing one pick-up, charmed into another, turns deadly serious when the hunk who “rescued” her (Arieh Worthalter of Neflix’s “The Take”) turns their back-seat sexcapade into a kidnapping, complete with a weakest-link accomplice (Ciaran O’Brien).

“What’s happening here? Where are we going?”

Her protests seem to have talked her out of a jam, but no. Next thing we know, she’s in the old BMW’s trunk, taped and tied. As I said, they’ve come equipped for murder.

But on the drive into the woods, nature grasps her plight and she finds herself with a fighting chance.

“Hunted” flirts with torture porn, and the run of the mill elements to the script — the accomplice, cell phones aren’t your salvation, they’re what give your position away — are a drag on it for entirely too long.

The whole Helped by Nature gimmick isn’t as interesting as it sounds, but it does underscore Eve’s sylvan transformation from bullied office worker to feral fury of the forest. And the more feral Eve gets, the more fun “Hunted” becomes.

Debay is fierce in this, the villains are venal and the framing device — animated — is stylish and smart.

But the half-hearted lean into “jokey” means that “Hunted” never gets under your skin and transitions into a visceral experience. “Alone,” which came out this fall, was better at that, and even more savage.

“Hunted” is far too “enchanted” to ever manage that.

MPA Rating: unrated, graphic violence

Cast: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O’Brien

Credits: Directed by Vincent Paronnaud, script by Vincent Paronnaud, Léa Pernollet. A Shudder release.

Running time: 1:27

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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