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Originally published Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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Movie review

'The Hunter': Trapped in a slow-moving but pretty tale

A two-star movie review of "The Hunter," starring Willem Dafoe as a mysterious loner who treks through the scenic Tasmanian wilderness hunting an elusive animal and winds up in the middle of a fight between loggers and environmentalists. Not much happens. And what little does happen, happens very slowly. And then is repeated.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

'The Hunter,' with Willem Dafoe, Frances O'Connor, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Sam Neill. Directed by Daniel Nettheim, from a screenplay by Alice Addison. 101 minutes. Rated R for language and brief violence. Harvard Exit.

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Willem Dafoe treks through the Tasmanian wilderness in "The Hunter." He painstakingly sets a snare. He carefully conceals a steel leg trap. The camera gazes awe-struck at the awesome scenery, at rushing streams, rugged mountains, emerald forests.

Be very, very quiet. His character, a mysterious loner named Martin, is hunting the legendary, allegedly extinct Tasmanian tiger.

Martin returns to his rented log cabin, owned by a hippie mom (Frances O'Connor) and her two precocious kids (Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock). He takes a bath.

Next thing you know, he's back trekking in the wilderness. He sets a snare. He places a trap. The camera contemplates the scenery.

Not much happens in "The Hunter." And what little does happen, happens very slowly. And then is repeated.

It's a strange little picture. Directed by Daniel Nettheim, an Australian, it repeatedly sets up situations and then fails to develop them. It has an environmental theme, with local loggers at odds with hippie-type enviros who protest their cutting. The loggers, thinking Martin is in cahoots with the protesters, halfheartedly harass the stranger, vandalizing his car and giving him the stink eye in a bar. But there's no follow-up. A faceoff between the loggers and the hippies begins ominously but then tails off to nothing.

There's a mystery involving the disappearance of O'Connor's character's husband, an environmental activist, but Martin's search for clues is desultory. He slowly warms to the woman and her kids, but the budding relationship barely blooms.

He's been dispatched on his quest for the vanished creature by a wicked corporation that wants to exploit the animal's rare DNA. It dawns on Martin that the environmental significance of that exploitation is dire. That dawning, like everything else, is slow in coming.

The scenery sure is pretty, though.

Soren Andersen:

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