The Hunter (1980) starring Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Kathryn Harrold, LeVar Burton, Ben Johnson, Richard Venture directed by Buzz Kulik Movie Review

The Hunter (1980)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Steve McQueen as Papa Thorson in The Hunter

A Day in the Life of a Bounty Hunter

Just 3 months after "The Hunter" its star Steve McQueen passed away due to complications following cancer surgery and it's a shame, not just the passing of a Hollywood legend but the fact his career ended with such a mediocre movie. I say mediocre because there are parts of "The Hunter" which are entertaining, the action in particular is quite stunning, but as a movie it just doesn't come together and suffers from an almost non existent storyline. In fairness "The Hunter" is basically a look at the life of a real legendary bounty hunter and as such reportedly covers various episodes in his career but because these episodes don't really link together it becomes a movie you watch because of the action and Steve McQueen rather than anything else.

In many ways Ralph "Papa" Thorson (Steve McQueen - The Towering Inferno) was born a century to late as he's not a fan of new things and makes a living as a bounty hunter, tracking down criminals and bail jumpers. But he is good at his job be it persuading someone to go with him or if need be giving chase. But it is a career not without danger as people die and he has to put up with death threats from those who have served time because of him. But with his girlfriend Dotty (Kathryn Harrold) about to give birth and his boss Ritchie Blumenthal (Eli Wallach - Mackenna's Gold) telling him to settle down it's time for Papa to consider what is important in his life rather than fighting change.

Eli Wallach as Ritchie Blumenthal in The Hunter

Now I've never heard of Ralph Thorson whose escapades as a bounty hunter form the basis of "The Hunter" and to be honest by the time "The Hunter" finished I didn't feel like I got to know anything more about him. The reason being is that it feels like someone has gone through his life and picked various memorable exploits as he went after bail jumpers and brought them in. But in doing so didn't bother to try and give us a story to link them all together.

Having said that we do get a subplot about Papa's girlfriend being pregnant, making him uneasy because of the changes it will bring. And there is also a subplot about one of the men he brought in planning to kill him but both of these end up being quite weak, almost to the point of after thoughts used to bring closure to the movie rather than anything else. As such whilst I am sure part of the intention was to let us into the life of a bounty hunter, the feeling of being in this world but not of it and the constant danger none of that comes across and is why that by the end of "The Hunter" you feel like you've just watched a collection of action scenes rather than a story.

Now as action goes what is on show in "The Hunter" is your generic action shot in late 70s early 80s style and so we get a few fights, some car chases, action on a train and so on. But it is the most exciting part of the movie and with Steve McQueen playing against type with him being a terrible driver there is some humour to the car chase scenes. In fact it is the car chase scene which make watching "The Hunter" worthwhile as there is a terrific car chase up a multi storey car park and a comical car chase in a corn field. Ironically if "The Hunter" had more of a story these two action scenes would have probably felt wrong.

As for the acting well to be honest "The Hunter" was not Steve McQueen at his best and I am sure health issues must have played a little part. But more significantly is that he doesn't have a story to work with and so all we get is really McQueen as Papa Thorson collecting various criminals often involving some action which whilst McQueen does with plenty of style end up lacking something because his character is so flat. And flat characters is how you can only refer to the rest as Kathryn Harrold, LeVar Burton, Ben Johnson and Eli Wallach all end up just making up the numbers.

What this all boils down to is that "The Hunter" isn't a good movie and most certainly not a fitting final movie for Steve McQueen. But whilst there is plenty which is wrong with it, in particular the lack of any real storyline, the various action scenes, especially the car chases make it worth watching.