Night Hunter [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (29th October 2019).
The Film

When the body of young woman is found on top of a logging truck, dead of an apparent fall from an overhead bridge, coroner Biggs (Devil's Gate's Beverly Ndukwu) discovers evidence that the victim was in long-term captivity, her ear drums blown out with only soft tissue damage, and that she was given vitamin supplements and birth control. Upon discovering the identity of the girl who disappeared after making an internet acquaintance, homicide lieutenant Marshall (Man of Steel's Henry Cavill) becomes even more wary of his ex-wife Angie's (The Roommate's Minka Kelly) concerns about their daughter Faye's (The Giver's Emma Tremblay) social media activity. Marshall does not know how to proceed with the investigation of the girl's death until former judge Cooper (Gandhi's Ben Kingsley) is brought in after a traffic accident claiming that his ward Lara (Eliana Jones) has been abducted; whereupon, Marshall discovers that, since the murders of his family by a criminal he was forced to acquit, Cooper and Lara have been working as a two-person vigilante squad luring pedophiles over the internet with Lara's apparent underage looks, castrating them, and hacking their computers and threatening to release the illegal contents should they go to the police. Marshall is able to use the repaired receiver from Cooper's car that is linked to a tracker in Lara's earrings to track her to a house in the snowy countryside where he rescues Lara, missing girl Julie (Sara Thompson), and apprehends the house's owner Simon Stulls (Freddy vs. Jason's Brendan Fletcher). While Marshall and Commissioner Harper (Spotlight's Stanley Tucci) are sure of Stulls' guilt, cyber profiler Rachel Chase (Texas Chainsaw 3D's Alexandra Daddario) tries to determine whether Stulls' childlike behavior is evidence of multiple personalities or if he might not be alone in a string of disappearances of young women whose remains have yet to be found. Remarks made in confidence to Rachel by Lara, who is anything but thankful to Marshall and even more determined than before to help Cooper track down others, seem to support the diagnosis of a split personality that was alternate childlike and playful and sadistically violent. When time-released gas in Stulls' basement kills six CSI workers, Rachel is not sure that Stulls was capable of engineering it himself. When another officer is killed by a car bomb outside the precinct, Marshall believes that it is not a sign of Stulls' innocence but of a collaborator. Rachel discovers that Simon's mother was raped and later committed suicide, her suicide not written in a Bible suggesting that her torment over what her child would turn into and the "blood money" she took to stay silent (which continued after her death explaining how Simon was able to live without other apparent means). All records of the court case turn out to have the name of the defendant expunged, but Simon's father seems like a likely suspect in the deaths and the abduction of the infant daughter of fellow detective Glasgow (Saw III's Mpho Koaho) who breaks Simon out when bomb threat clears the building. Simon reveals another side of his personality when they recapture him, and Harper is even more determined to be done with him when he pulls the gambit of promising to reveal the whereabouts of other victims if he can speak to the press in a move designed to create chaos for another escape with the help of his still-unknown co-conspirator with two hostages in tow.

While action cartoon-makers turned DTV B-film actioners Saban have switched distribution from Lionsgate to Paramount, Night Hunter proves that their product remains just as absurd as ever. While Braven was dumb fun, Night Hunter is just dreary and insultingly idiotic. The film plays less like an identikit American serial killer thriller and more like Nordic Noir; indeed, the film might have worked as a miniseries a la the American versions of The Killing and The Bridge with its wintry Canadian-lensing (had the film been set in Canada rather than some anonymous American town, Cavill's dodgy accent might have passed muster). The feel of a story that might have been meant for a longer format comes across not so much in the cardboard characterizations of the leads – while the screentime afforded to a backstory for Cooper seems functional, a character-revealing monologue from Tucci feels more like a concession to the actor – and the few obligatory roles like ex-wife and neglected daughter than to other supporting roles of characters the audience are supposed to care for (I still have no idea whether the person killed in the car bombing was supposed to be a character we've been shown or a random cop). The third act twist is even hoarier than the multiple personality angle that viewers who did not guess it likely did do because they truly believed no writer could possibly drag that one out again. Cavill is okay in an undemanding role, Kingsley gets by with his dignity, while Fletcher does his best with a showy role made up of madman clichés. Daddario and Jones are better even if their roles as female characters is ultimately to be at the mercy of the villain. Perhaps most shocking of all is the nothing supporting role for Nathan Fillion who is no major star, but his eight season run as the titular character Castle would seem to have qualified him as much as ex-Superman Cavill for a lead role in Saban assembly line home video product. Night Hunter is hard to recommend even for the most undemanding viewers looking for a run-of-the-mill thriller.

Video

Announced as a Blu-ray and DVD release by Lionsgate, Saban's former distributor, with artwork for both formats going out to retailers, there is nothing to complain about the techincal asepcts of Paramount's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen Blu-ray of Night Hunter beneath the usual cold color timing and green-tinged highlights of the film's identikit modern thriller look. Blacks are satisfyingly inky and deep while detail is good and skintones look healthy under "normal" lighting conditions.

Audio

The sole audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track full of rumbling surround and LFE noises to unnerve, directional effects during suspense sequences, and clear representation of the dialogue and scoring. Optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included (no French subtitles since Paramount is not handling Saban in Canada where a Blu-ray release is due out from another company).

Extras

No extras, not even start-up trailers.

Packaging

A slipcover is included along with a digital copy code.

Overall

Night Hunter is hard to recommend even for the most undemanding viewers looking for a run-of-the-mill thriller.

 


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