The Hunting Party (2007)

 

 

Director:     Richard Shepard.

Starring:     Terrence Howard (Duck),  Richard Gere (Simon Hunt),  Gordana Vukres (Girl at Awards Ceremony),  James Brolin (Franklin Harris),  Sanela Seferagic (Sexy Assistant),  Damir Saban (Gert),  Aleksandra Grdic (TriBeCa Loft Girl),  Jesse Eisenberg (Benjamin Strauss),  John W. Falk (Journalist #1),  Scott Anderson (Journalist #2),  Harald Doornbos (Journalist #3),  Philippe Deprez (Journalist #4),  Erich Rathfelder (Journalist #5),  Zan Marolt (Journalist #6),  Ljubomir Kerekes (The Fox),  Kristina Krepela (Marda),  Snezana Markovic (Una),  Joy Bryant (Duckís Girlfriend),  Goran Kostic (Srdjan),  Branko Smiljanic (Nine Fingered Man),  Semir Krivic (Roadhouse Waiter),  Nitin Ganatra (Indian Officer),  R. Mahalakshmi Devaraj (Miriam),  Mark Ivanir (Boris),  Lucio Slama (Man with Scar).

In search of a Serbian war criminal that the CIA, etc. can't (or won't?) catch

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

"Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true."

In Somalia soldiers are killing civilians and reporter Simon Hunt and cameraman Duck are recording it.  Duck as narrator comments that being that close to death and being alive is completely addictive.  He worked with Simon for nine years all over the world.  No one was crazier or as good as Simon even in the very worst of times.  Simon tells him to go out and film in a dangerous situation.  Duck got shot four times and Simon got not even a scratch.  Duck says they won lots of awards  Yes, Simon was the best in the business.

Then in the winter of 1994 things changed.  It was one perfect winter of tragedy and one day Simon just snapped.  Simonís cracking up was a dozy and Duck filmed it all.  Duck says Simon was reporting from Bosnia.  The network announcer back home in the USA Franklin Harris wants a regular report from Simon.  He refers to the day's events as a battle.  But Simon appears very agitated and upset.  He says the Serbs were liquidating the Bosnian Muslims  --  it wasnít a battle, it was a slaughter.  The Dutch UN soldiers were getting drunk earlier this morning.  He goes on to say these people were butchered and the  women were raped.  Simon then starts using curse words to describe the network people.

Duck says that after that everything changed.  Simon got fired and Duck got promoted.  Duck was sent to New York to be the chief cameraman working with Franklin Harris. Duck starts living the high life.  We see him making love to a pretty woman.  But Simon now had only cable jobs that  he would quit or get fired from for insubordination.  He was on the bottom rung of reporting.  Then Simon just dropped off the radar screen.  Duck asks himself if he misses the excitement of working with Simon Hunt?  Absolutely not, he says.  But he quickly adds:  "And that was the lie that I lived with."

Five years after the end of the Bosnian War.  Duck returns to Bosnia for the ceremony honoring the five year anniversary of peace.  With him are Franklin Harris and the son, named Benjamin Strauss, of a network vice-president.  The two men keep kidding the young fellow by shouting watch out for the land mines!  There are supposed to be some 500,000 land mines still in the country. 

Duck goes into a bar where there are five other journalists who know him.  When they see Duck they start shouting "Ducky!  Ducky!"  Narrator Duck says that NATO had 25,000 troops and couldnít find any war criminals.  The journalists start talking about the "Fox" and a curious Benjamin asks who is that?  Duck asks Benjamin for his book on Bosnia.  Benjamin gives it to him and Duck throws it on the floor.   Duck then explains that the Fox is the man who ordered thousands of innocent women to be raped.  And now there is a $5 million collar bounty on his head.  The UN, CIA, NATI, etc. are looking for him.

Duck goes back to his hotel room.  He is shocked when he sees Simon sitting on the bed.  Simon says he was watching Duck and the two other fellows.  What Simon wants is for Duck to to shoot his stand-up report for he has no money to hire a cameraman.  Then Simon says he has got something to put him on the map again.  Duck says he can't go.  He has a beautiful woman in Greece waiting for him. 

Simon Hunt walks up to Franklin Harris who says he thought Simon was dead.  He is introduced to Benjamin who also says that he thought that Simon was dead.  Harris says Simon used to be their best reporter until he flamed out. 

Simon does his report on the five year anniversary of the peace.  He does it for the Jamaican, Polish and Peruvian networks.  He hopes one of them will buy it. 

Duck finally asks Simon whatís the story? The story is too big to waste, says Simon.  He goes on to say that Duck has gotten too soft.  Duck ignores that and asks again what's the story?  Simon says that the Fox is the pompous bastard who is responsible for all of this misfortune in Bosnia.  And, he says, he knows where heís hiding.  Duck tells Simon that he is out of his mind. Some people says the Fox has twenty armed guards with him at all times.  Simon says and some people believe he has none.  He promises that they can get right up to the man.  From what his source tells him, the Fox is hiding up in the mountains near the border with Montenegro.

Simon says he will leave first thing in the morning.  Duck calls his girlfriend who is  in a bikini in sunny Greece.  She asks him when he's coming and he says tomorrow.  Benjamin comes up to Duck and says he knows Simon and he are onto to something good.  Duck denies that they have a big story, but Benjamin knows he's not telling the truth.  Duck finally gives in but adds that Simon ain't going to like this.

In the morning Duck and Benjamin wait at the car until Simon arrives.  They all go for a long ride in a Mercedes-Benz.  He talks about what he knows concerning the Fox.  Sir John is a psychopathic guard who raped and killed women.  He is in charge of protecting the Fox.  On his forehead is printed the saying:  "I was dead the day I was born.."  They pass by the 1984 Winter Olympics Village in Sarajevo.  Then they pass into Serbia.  Simon says that they are going to capture the criminal and get the $5 million dollars  -- $3 million for himself and $2 million to be split between the other two fellows.

The Fox and a friend are out hunting.  They kill a poor fox. 

The talk about the Fox is that he drives around in a convoy of orange cars.  The men stop at a restaurant. A waiter hears the three men talking about the Fox.  He comes up to them and says that the Fox is not in Cebelici.  He is everywhere and he listens to everything.  The guys leave the restaurant in a hurry saying that was a warning.  As they drive away the waiter comes out with a rifle and fires at the car.  Benjamin is very frightened and says they are all going to die.  Simon explains that he took the waiter's  $20 dollar tip and that's why the guy was shooting at them.   Benjamin asks:  "You got us shot at for $20 bucks?"   Simon yells back to Duck in the back sit to ask:  "You enjoyed it, didn't you, Ducky?"  He says that's a little taste of what Ducky has been missing.

The guys stop at Foca, UN center of command.  They go in to talk with the Indian officer there.  The guys says that they heard that a bunch of war criminals are living in Foca.  The officer says that they are not authorized to arrest War Criminals. The guys say they are on their way to Cebelici.  The officer comments that they have been warned three times to stay away from Cebelici for four or five days. 

The guys now talk to Boris of the UN.  He warns the guys not to go to Cebelici.  He doesn't want them walking into a shoot out.  Then he wants to know who the heck are these fellows?  They try to tell him that they are journalists, but he doesn't believe them.  Boris and the guys go to a bar.  He tells them that he knows things and how they operate.  (A fellow with a scar is watching them.)  The UN has no interest in the Fox, says Boris.  He says the whole thing is dirty.  A bit later Duck tells Benjamin that Boris thinks they are a CIA hit squad.

Boris confirmed the Fox is hiding out there.  Duck says that they are not capturing him and Benjamin agrees.  Simon says he is going to find the Fox tomorrow.  They can join him or leave.  Simon goes.  Benjamin says Simon is a God damned nut job.  Duck remembers back to the time when Simon was at the top of his game.  Marta and Una said they were cousins but who knows?  Simon and Duck had a good time with them.  Simon and Marta had a little thing between them.  Simon really liked her and even gave her money.  The guy loved Marta.

Fast forward six months.  Sarajevo is under siege and there was no news from Marta.  So they traveled to Marta's hometown, Polje.  A very serious incident occurred in Polje.  Duck says:  "The horrors we saw were fucking inhuman."  Twenty minutes before they go on the air Simon finds a very pregnant Marta.  She has been shot in the stomach area five times.  It also looks like she was raped.  Simon strokes her hair and cries. 

Someone laughs at the sight. Its a couple of Serbs, responsible for the genocide. Simon then see the Fox strutting around. They look at each other. The Fox motions for Simon to come on. Duck stops Simon.  Simon cries.  So it's no wonder Simon now wants to find the war criminal.

The three journalists are on their way into the mountains. They pass by a guy watching the road.. They are watching every car that goes up the mountain. They turn and go on a dirt road into farm country. It takes them to Celibici. Whereís the welcoming committee? Simon goes to find a bar. He marches in and says hellos to the guys. He says they are just heading to Montenegro.  He adds:  "Long live Serbia!"  He tells anyone interested that they are journalists and want to portray the Fox as a hero.  The hunting friend of the Fox comes up and says that no one can catch the Fox.  Moreover, they donít like being made made fun of.  The fellows believe that the three are CIA, not reporters.  Simon asks if the man ever hunted with the Fox.  The fox hunter says:  "In the war I killed people like you."  As Simon talks with the man, Benjamin sees a convoy of orange cars go by.  He tells Duck.  The Serb tells Simon to tell his friends that the locals don't know anything. 

The three leave the bar.  They tell  Simon about the orange car convoy.  Simon jumps in the car with the other two guys and starts chasing after the convoy.  They come to an intersection and find it blocked by three orange cars.  One of the Serbs comes over to the reporters' car and tells them:  "Hey, get out of the fucking car!. Get on the ground.  On the ground now!"  Another Serb comes over.  The three reporters are sure they are about to be killed, but all of a sudden the Serb that just came over recently recognizes Simon.  The reporters were never so relieved.  The Serb says:  "We almost killed you man!"  Simon says to his colleagues:  "Laugh at all their jokes and donít stare at the dwarf!" 

A dwarf exits one of the orange cars.  He goes over to Simon, growls:  "Where the fuck is my money?" and grabs Simon by they balls.  Simon gives the fellow Duckís guitar in payment. After a bit more conversation the three reporters return to their hotel.  The UN fellow Boris is there.  He says they cannot talk here and that things are heating up. 

Duck talks to Simon.  Simon says he even dreams about catching the Fox.  He says that he was flying high before the Bosnian War and now he's down and out.  He also tells Duck that they were a great team.  Duck agrees.  Duck then suggests that Simon get in touch with his source to figure out what to do next.  Simon admits that there is no source. He made up the whole story so that Duck would go with him to do the camera work.  Duck can't believe it!  Simon says yes, he made it up, but Boris thinks they are on the right trail.

Visegrad, Serbian Republic. Boris waits for the reporters.  He tells them about Miriam.  They will go talk to her.  He warns the guys that Miriam might cut their balls off if she doesn't think they are serious about finding the Fox.  Boris takes them to her.  Miriam tells them that she is no friend of the Muslims. She herself was gang-raped for seven hours.  She goes on saying that she is a proud Serb, but this is all about money. Fox's people killed her father and now they have nothing. She tells them:  "You stop them, I get my family back". Her old boyfriend is one of the Fox's guards. He loves her and will give them the access information to the Fox.  It becomes apparent to the guys that Miriam also thinks they are CIA. So they play along.  Miriam says the guards are fat and lazy and bored out of their minds. She then tells them to give her one thousand marks because she is risking everything talking to them.   Now Benjamin shows his talents.  He says that the Agency has strict rules about who can and cannot give out funds.  They themselves are not authorized to give out money. Miriam buys this and says that tomorrow she will find out what they need to know.

When the guys are walking away from Miriam, Simon and Duck tell Benjamin that he was amazing back there.  The guys start driving back to their hotel.  A truck comes up close behind their car.  Simon says they have to get back to Sarajevo.  Suddenly the truck starts ramming the rear end of the Mercedes-Benz.  Simon guns his automobile to gets ahead of the truck.  He then cuts the car's lights and quickly gets off the road.  The truck keeps going by them.  

The guys reach their hotel.  Simon says they have stepped into something big, so trust nobody. Meanwhile, the fellow with the very nasty facial scar is listening in on their conversation.  Inside the hotel, Duck finds his room all messed up. Three guys with guns are there.   One says:  "You want to find the Fox?  Now the Fox wants to find you!"  The Serbs cover their eyes and mouths with tape and take them to a small cabin.

In the cabin they come face to face with the sadist St. John. He shows them his  killing axe. You like it? Which one is your team leader?  Benjamin tries to tell St. John that they are journalists, not CIA agents.  St. John doesn't believe them.  He is going to kill Benjamin.  Simon makes a big noise and St John goes to him. Suddenly the Fox shows up. He tells the three colleagues that they know everything about them.  For four weeks they have heard rumors that CIA is coming.  Benjamin tells them again that they are just journalists.   The Fox says that the three fellows told Boris that they were CIA.  The guys say that Boris was just confused. The Fox tells St. John to kill them. 

Just in the nick of time the CIA arrives.  They kill St. John and the guards, but the Fox gets away.  The CIA dropped in by helicopter.  (The man with the bad facial scar is with them.)  The agents put the three on their helicopter.  Simon tells the head agent that they want off the copter.  He also asks if the guys caught the Fox?  They can't believe it when the answer is no.  They ask:  "You didnít catch him?"  The CIA leader says they saved the three's lives.  And now the reporter have got to leave the country.  He adds that the men are lucky that they havenít arrested them for impersonating CIA agents.  The agent also warns them not to print anything about this.  They have been working on this project for three weeks. 

The reporters are still skeptical about the CIA.  They do wonder why would the CIA let a war criminal go?  After all, they found the Fox in two days!  They ask a good question:  "Did you actually want to find him?"  The CIA agent only says that they are not saving the guys again.  Duck tells his colleagues that he heard a rumor that the CIA made a deal with the Fox.  If he stepped down from power, they would not come after him.  Maybe the rumor is true.  

The guys are brought to a NATO supply hanger at Sarajevo airport.   Simon wants to escape from the CIA.  After all, they recently learned that the CIA sent Boris out of this country just because he was looking for the Fox.   Duck says he's with Simon:  "No one wants to catch this bastard and thatís just wrong."  Duck says they canít leave now.  Simon says he has a plan.  The plan is to run. Off they go running.

Miriam found out where the Fox is hiding, so the guys  go out looking for the war criminal.  While the Fox is out fox hunting with his friend, the guys set off some small explosions which really frighten the Fox.  He takes off running to try to get away from his potential captors. leaving his friend behind.  Duck chases after the war criminal.  The three reporters corner him when he reaches a white-water stream.  The Fox asks the men where is the rest of their team?  The guys get a kick out of that question.  

The guys put the Fox in their car.  They drive to Marta's home town, Polje.  The town is one of the few places Muslims have returned to in large numbers.  They drop off the Fox right in the middle of the market area with his hands tied behind his back.  The Fox remains totally still for a little while.  The people stare at him and some suddenly realize who he is.  Soon the Fox is running for his life chased by a horde of townspeople.  

Simons tells the guys there will be international denials and cover ups. Duck says the story is going to be right here.  

 

The message at the end of the movie is a denunciation of the willfully weak International attempts to catch the two worst war criminals of the war, as if to say:  You donít believe they are really trying to catch them, do you? Boris was transferred.  The message says the dwarf really existed, as well as St John and Miriam (except Miriam was a man).  The USA did put up some wanted posters for the Fox, but with an 800 telephone number that could only be used in the USA.

 

Good movie.  I myself have often doubted at the seriousness of the international community in finding, prosecuting and punish the war criminal associated with the Bosnian War.  They bombed the heck out of Serbia at will and yet they can't find the war criminals?  Let's face it, it's just a lot easier to let them go regardless of what they did.  The USA in WWII actually helped some Nazi war criminals get away and let others just slip out of Germany.  They were more concerned about Soviet and German communists than fascists.  Good question:  Why do they so often go so easy on war criminals?  (And that includes George Bush and Dick Cheney!)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

See Harrison's Flowers (2000).

 

 

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