Monday, 31 December 2018

The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter (2018) - Movie Review know that it’s been a weird year when Danny McBride, an actor and writer better known for his comedic works, is currently riding high on a horror movie. This kind of step into different genres doesn’t have to be a bad thing (worked a miracle for Jordan Peele), but if McBride wants to keep up with his standard trade, it’s an easy ask that he be attached to works worth their salt. And this kind of is, in a roundabout way, as despite this being billed as a comedy, laughter isn’t exactly the first reaction this gives. It’s a little too low-key and a little too preoccupied with moodier pursuits for that.

A look at the good ol’ American South tradition of trophy hunting, the cast here is small but quite spotty. Josh Brolin as the divorced dad using a hunting trip as a chance to bond with his son is very good and exactly what the role calls for. He hits all the quiet lamenting his position would warrant, and when the film gets into the sadder aspects of why this narrative is even here in the first place, it can make for some truly moving stuff.

The other two mains, not so much. Danny McBride is useful here as a needed voice of reason as the resident cameraman, but considering he’s the one trying the most to give this feature some humour, his primary efforts feel like he’s trying too hard to make this fit. To say nothing of Montana Jordan as Brolin’s son, whom in seconds it becomes clear that this is the only non-Big-Bang-Theory acting gig he’s ever had, meaning that he already sounds awkward even without including his ‘child that talks like the adults’ dialogue.

So, yeah, the comedy is pretty flat, but the more dramatic moments actually land on solid ground more times than not. The perspective of trophy hunting shown here feels like someone looked at the success of Duck Dynasty and made the expected over-compensation joke… and then decided to think about that idea seriously. It’s used as a means to look at traditional masculinity, the idea that being able to hunt and clean your own food is a sign of true manhood, and questions what good that notion even accomplishes. You spend so long proving your worth as a hunter, even if it’s just to convince yourself of that worth, that you end up neglecting the people you’re supposed to be providing for with that kill.

If there’s anything that qualifies as a ‘running gag’ in this film, it’s how self-consciously devoid of estrogen the main narrative is. Brolin’s Buck actively doesn’t want women involved in the trip, to the point where he forbids both his cameraman and son from talking with their own girlfriends while they’re out. It’s a path that has already led to a downfall, being a key component in why Buck is divorced, but because actually staying in touch with loved ones seems to clash against his own views of what a man is, he doesn’t see the problem. Or maybe he doesn’t want to, since doing so would confirm for him that he has actually screwed up. And with how much he’s still processing over the past two years, Buck isn’t ready for that just yet.

This film isn’t exactly an anomaly as a downtempo character study billed as an out-and-out comedy; Manny Lewis went through the same thing a few years ago. And while I definitely give this film credit for his sly musings about men and hunting, since hunting in most regards isn’t exactly the necessity it once was, that isn’t enough to change how lifeless a lot of this is. It’s intentionally low-key, sure, but it goes too far in that direction, which might go to explain why the jokes, when we actually get them, land with a damp squib. This would’ve benefitted from a bit more accuracy and a lot more focus before making the shot.

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