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The Hunt Goes for the Kill, But Mostly Fires Blanks

A Danish allegory about a man falsely accused of pedophilia (the dashing, quietly charismatic Mads Mikkelsen) and the town that turns against him, Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt was one of the most divisive works screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Odd, since there's nothing worthy of love or hate in this capably made but underwhelming movie. Vinterberg—with compatriot Lars von Trier—founded the Dogme 95 movement (that charter of dos and don'ts intended to purify big-screen realism), and his first effort, The Celebration, was a watchable jolt of family dysfunction. Since then, the director has made two far shakier U.S.-set films: the dreadful anti-gun parable Dear Wendy and an endearingly inept futuristic noir-romance, It's All About Love (starring a pre-Homeland Claire Danes). If The Hunt finds Vinterberg working in a more controlled register, the result is a wash. With its wintry palette and mix of handheld camerawork and carefully composed widescreen images, the film is visually polished (bordering on bland) and numbingly routine. Unlike in The Celebration, the cruelty and suffering in The Hunt feel both overly schematic and intellectually muddled. What exactly is Vinterberg exposing? Puritanism lurking beneath ostensibly open-minded Scandinavian communities? The mechanics of mob mentality and collective hysteria? None of this is particularly new, provocative, or even timely. The Hunt seems to think it's dropping bombs, but it mostly fires blanks.

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