At least one interesting wrinkle in the moribund narrative of Jonathan Mostow’s latest action-thriller The Hunter’s Prayer resides in the small character detail of hired killer Lucas (Sam Worthington).
Instead of being a mutated cyber-being composed in a lab or a completely unbelievable superman immune to bullets and explosions, he’s decidedly human, and suffering from PTSD as well as addicted to drugs. This causes him to tire quickly, get confused during the numerous shootouts he finds himself in, or simply desire that necessary quiet time to shoot up. It’s one of the few quirks to a film that’s otherwise so solemn and cliche that one struggles to remember even the title.
The reason Lucas finds himself in so many shoot-outs is due to his inability to follow through on an assassin mission. Once he lays eyes on his college-aged target, Ella (Odeya Rush), the fatherly emotions he feels about his own abandoned daughter kick in and transform him into the girl’s protector rather than her killer.
Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with the rich guy who hired Lucas to complete the job (after already dispatching thugs to wipe out Ella’s mother and father in the opening scene), and the result is a series of wary bonding between Ella and Lucas while dodging the attacks of many other killers along their European locales.
Despite the fact The Hunter’s Prayer feels so stamped with the genre of hitman-turned-protector tropes, it could have partially overcome those obstacles with some sparks of originality in other aspects. Devoid of those, however, what really sinks the effort is its combination of staid acting and largely uninspired action set pieces.
As Lucas, Worthington brings his scowling baggage of indecipherable toughness that he’s displayed ever since breaking onto the scene with Terminator: Salvation. A bit more successful is Rush as Ella, although she barely gets more to do than act alternatively scared, appalled and confused at the wages of death being tallied around her. The script (written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris) makes overtures at the developing bond between the two, but it never fully inherits a heartfelt connection outside of innocuous conversations interrupted by more bullets.
Director Mostow, who’s had far more hits than misses in his career (Breakdown in 1997 and U-571 in 2000 are his high points) further exasperates the futility of The Hunter’s Prayer by several poorly staged action scenes, one of them being a grand car chase towards the beginning of the film. One minute we’re inside a vehicle looking out, and the next, the camera pans down a long alleyway and the cars zip by in front of us from the right, ultimately shattering any sense of tension or logistics.
The shattering of tension and logistics is something that’s repeated over and over in The Hunter’s Prayer. It’s a B movie yes, but one whose numerous faults don’t necessarily make it an enjoyable B movie, which is the worst thing of all.
The Hunter’s Prayer opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday, June 9. It also opens on VOD platforms the same day.