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Film Review: ‘The Hunter’s Prayer’

Variety logo Variety 6/9/2017 Joe Leydon

Echoes of “Leon: The Professional” and the Jason Bourne franchise resound throughout “The Hunter’s Prayer,” a briskly paced and instantly forgettable cut-and-paste thriller about a conscience-stricken assassin who becomes the target of other killers when he refrains from terminating a 16-year-old girl on his hit list.

Sam Worthington is Lucas, a drug-addicted combat veteran who makes his living as a lethal weapon, and Odeya Rush is Ella, the innocent teen who’s been marked for death because her dad embezzled money from Richard Addison (Allen Leech), a criminally inclined business tycoon. It’s unfortunate that the co-stars generate zero chemistry together, since the plot — adapted by scripters John Brancato and Michael Ferris from Kevin Wignall’s novel — pivots on the development of a surrogate father/substitute daughter bond between the hit man and the hunted girl. But never mind: Director Jonathan Mostow (“Terminator 3”) provides enough hairbreadth escapes, extended shootouts, crash-and-dash auto chases, and hand-to-hand combat sequences to make the movie modestly diverting for undemanding audiences.

After her father and stepmom are killed (along with a maid and, no joke, the family dog) in New York, Ella is a sitting duck in Switzerland, where she’s attending boarding school. Fortunately, she’s taken out of the line of fire by Lucas, who appears to be over-compensating for never establishing contact with his own estranged daughter. As they zigzag across a sizable swath of Europe and Great Britain, constantly pursued by hired guns who can’t shoot accurately, Ella comes to appreciate Lucas’ unique skill set, if not his paternal gestures. Ultimately, she resolves to seek revenge by murdering Addison — with or without Lucas’ help.

As often is the case in trifles of this sort, the international supporting cast is littered with folks focused on making the absolute most of thinly written roles. The standouts here include Veronica Echegui, who strikes a punkish pose as a freelance medic for hit men on the run, and Amy Landecker, who snarls authoritatively as a corrupt FBI agent on Addison’s payroll. As Addison, Leech is pretty much your standard-issue Eurotrash slimeball. He repeatedly insists that he wants Ella killed to make some sort of statement to potential betrayers. Before she dies, however, he wants her to reveal where her dad hid the money he stole from him. This obviously is a matter of great urgency for Addison: The guy is so cash-strapped, he can’t afford more than three security guards to watch the front gate at his lavish estate.

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