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Saturday, October 23, 2010

HUNT TO KILL -- DVD review by porfle

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin is back to look stiff and kill people in his latest action vehicle, HUNT TO KILL (2010), which should please his fans who are easily pleased.  Others may feel inclined to hunt for something else to watch.

A prologue features Austin and the venerable Eric Roberts, one of my all-time favorite actors, as Texas border patrol agents staking out a trailer in the desert.  Steve just got a promotion, and for some reason best pal Eric gives him a James Bond watch with a band that can be unraveled into a rope. Not that he'll have any use for it sometime later in the movie when he really needs a rope, of course.  Roberts, who currently seems to be making a living simply by showing up for awhile in various movies, is so relaxed here that he seems on the verge of taking a blissful nap during every take.  It isn't hard to figure out that the lifespan of his character is roughly the same length of time that his pre-titles cameo role in this movie will last.  As soon he's killed during a botched raid on the trailer, a heartbroken Steve moves to Montana to live in the woods...and hunt.  Hunt to kill, that is.

Meanwhile, we see a gang of thieves who have just pulled off a big bank heist, and their gray-haired leader, Lawson, double-crosses everyone and absconds with the bonds.  But Banks (Gil Bellows, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) secretly planted a bug on the guy and with the help of their electronics expert, Geary, they track Lawson all the way to the woods of--you guessed it--Montana, where he plans to cross the border into Canada.  Since these city slickers will need a guide, they take Steve's rebellious, incredibly annoying daughter Kim (Marie Avgeropoulos) hostage and force him to lead them through the forest on Lawson's trail.  Naturally, the baddies commit all sorts of indignities against Steve and his daughter along the way, which we just know Steve is keeping track of so that it will be just that much more satisfying when he eventually gets a chance to slaughter them all later.

An aside--Steve's daughter in this movie is so annoying from the start that I hate her.  She's cute, but I hate her.  It's obvious that before the movie's over she'll gain a newfound respect for Dad after he saves her from the bad guys, just like Mary Elizabeth Winstead in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, but it'll be too little, too late.  I permanently hate her.  Unfortunately, we know there's no way Kim can die because her being held hostage is the only reason Steve doesn't just go ahead and wipe out all the bad guys in the first ten minutes of the movie.

Anyway, it all sounds like a pretty good premise, but we mostly get more interaction than regular action as the group does a lot of trudging around in the woods and arguing with each other.  Bellows enjoys overplaying the crazy-funny psycho Banks and taunting Steve to the breaking point, which we know he's about to reach because his immobile stare becomes slightly more intense.  These moments usually end with someone pointing their gun at Kim's head while her deadly Dad restrains himself and makes another notation in his mental "I'm going to kill you later" notebook.  Not much happens in the first half of the movie, although one of the bad guys actually does lay hands on Kim--and not in a nice "faith-healer" type of way--so Steve avails himself of the opportunity to treat him like a giant piece of crunchy-style KFC chicken until Banks steps in.

Complications arise in their pursuit of Lawson, and Steve is forced to rappel down the side of a cliff to retrieve a certain backpack.  Although they don't have any rope, Steve remembers the handy James Bond watch that Q...I mean, Eric Roberts gave him before the titles.  And sure enough, the magical watchband unravels into roughly a hundred feet of thick, durable rope.  I haven't seen anything this hard to believe since that "Matt Helm" movie where Dean Martin pulls a suitcase-sized kit out of his car trunk and builds a helicopter. 

Eventually, Steve gets separated from the rest of the group as Kim continues to act as their unwilling guide.  Just to show us what a badass he is, he barely winces while digging a slug out of his gut with a red-hot knife.  Then he runs across a crossbow that someone has conveniently left in the woods, makes some arrows along with a couple of spears, and goes into hunt-to-kill mode.  Meanwhile, as the bad guys begin to get on each others' nerves, we're treated to a fun dust-up between irritating tech-guy Geary and Banks' girlfriend, Dominika (Emilie Ullerup).

Dominika, by the way, is a gorgeous blonde babe who wields a gun and likes to tie people up, automatically making her my favorite character.  The fact that she ties up Steve's annoying daughter and drags her around like a dog on a leash for most of the movie gives it a certain fetishy goodness that I won't even attempt to explain.  At any rate, watching her kick Geary's whiny ass is one of the film's high points. 

Without going into detail, the rest of the movie consists of a few mildly interesting hunt-kills and some really bad one-liners, until inevitably it all comes down to Steve versus Banks.  Their extended chase and fight sequence isn't all that exciting, with Banks' Chucky-like ability to keep bouncing back from apparent death getting a little dumb after awhile.  The comical sight of Steve Austin doing a speeded-up wheelie on a four-wheel ATV leads to the film's second explosion (the first being that trailer way back in Texas).  All in all, the best fight in the film is probably Steve's burly brawl with the beefy Gary Daniels as "Jensen", who delivers some roundhouse kicks and other fancy moves against our dogged hero's more traditional two-fisted style.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and English and Spanish subtitles.  Extras include a commentary track with director Keoni Waxman (Steven Seagal's THE KEEPER) and actor Michael Eklund ("Geary"), plus a very low-key "behind-the-scenes" featurette and a trailer.    

Steve Austin is a reliable tough-guy hero who makes okay action flicks, and you know what you're going to get when you watch one so there's no use expecting anything more.  HUNT TO KILL is like a bologna sandwich--neither great nor awful, but good enough to tide you over until something tastier comes along. 

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