Because the big screen tends to confer glamour on almost any subject (violence especially) war movies that don’t implicitly ask you to be all you can be are a rarity. Apocalypse Now? The grunts in Jarhead go batshit for it — prompting Village Voice critic J. Hoberman to note that “if it’s screenable for our boys, it ain’t anti-war.” The Hunting Party, a new film about war correspondents in Bosnia, wouldn’t make suitable recruitment viewing for Uncle Sam, but J-school admissions officers could probably get some mileage out of its bullet-dodging spirit.
The Hunting Party is the latest example of the war comedy, a black humor subgenre that includes Dr. Strangelove, M*A*S*H*, Three Kings, and, so long as you are sufficiently baked, anything Vietnam-related by Oliver Stone. War comedies are in on the joke, so to speak, and by zeroing in on combat’s inherent absurdity they can sometimes accomplish the subversive goals that elude their dramatic brethren. The trouble with The Hunting Party is that, unlike its predecessors, it isn’t particularly funny.
While in Sarajevo to cover the five-year anniversary of the civil war’s end, a down-on-his-luck reporter (Richard Gere) meets up with his former cameraman (Terrence Howard). With little to go on but rumors, and with the help of a diminutive third wheel (Jesse Eisenberg, slumming it), they try to find a notorious war criminal who remains at large. In his last film, The Matador, director Richard Shepard ventured into the perilous jungle of male friendship with genuine curiosity and courage, and it’s disappointing that The Hunting Party’s macho buddy ethos is the sort of thing you’d expect from a Lethal Weapon sequel.