The Magic Hunter

on June 21, 1996 by Thomas Quinn
   While the premise of this quirky suspense film would seem pretty high-concept, "The Magic Hunter" is anything but a mainstream drama. In fact, it's the kind of thing that film school grads love to dissect into the wee hours of the morning as they kick about the symbolism that pervades this kind of picture and analyze what the movie was really about. Art house film lovers might also get some amusement from this rather vexing Faustian tale. But don't expect much in the way of a clear, plot-driven narrative. You won't get it.
   Gary Kemp plays Max, the best marksman on a police force, who accidentally injures a hostage while trying to take out her kidnapper with a high-powered rifle. Shaken by the incident, and put on report for his mistake, he's handed a unique opportunity by a mysterious fellow officer named Kasper (Peter Vallai) who gives him several magic bullets which never miss their target. Max feels liberated when his shooting suddenly becomes flawless. But it turns out that Max has made a deal with the Devil, and inevitably, there is a price to be paid.
   The story, meanwhile, is interspliced with a parallel tale that takes place in a medieval Hungarian village, in which a flock of peasants are just learning about Satan and his trickeries. It's here that the film, while amusing, becomes pretty baffling. Arcane religious references, surreal flights of fancy and a poetic undercurrent that waxes philosophical about our need for miracles and our unwillingness to believe in them, all may enrich the subtext of the visually interesting film. But the fractured narrative and confusing imagery often undermines the suspense aspect of the story, and in the end, the film ultimately disappoints.    Starring Gary Kemp, Sadie Frost, Peter Vallai and Alexander Kaidanovsky. Directed by Ildiko Enyedi. Written by Ildiko Enyedi and Laszlo Revesz. Produced by Andras Hamori and Wieland Schulz-Keil. A Shadow Distribution release. Suspense. In Hungarian with English subtitles. Running time: 107 min.
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