The Hunting Party

Rated 3.0

Writer-director Richard Shepard Hollywoodizes Scott Anderson’s 2000 Esquire article about some journalists who got drunk together in Sarajevo after the third Balkan war and decided to capture a war criminal still at large. They almost succeeded, largely because UN officials figured them for a CIA hit squad. “Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true,” the movie snappishly proclaims in an opening title card, but it has trouble maintaining that tonal control. By turns harrowing and grimly funny, the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up storyline does qualify as unpredictable, but it lacks the swift exactitude of a better black comedy of war’s aftermath like David O. Russell’s Three Kings. Plus, The Hunting Party makes such a pose of its gallows humor that real feeling then seems like bathos. Shepard unfairly wants us to take the pretty, actorly Richard Gere for a wearied war correspondent with something to prove. Help comes from a humane turn from Terrence Howard as Gere’s trusty cameraman and the movie’s narrator, and The Squid and the Whale ’s Jesse Eisenberg as the journos’ jittery green sidekick, but in the end it’s not enough for greatness.