Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Steve Austin, Gil Bellows, Gary Daniels, Marie Avgeropoulos, Michael Eklund, Emilie Ullerup, Eric Roberts
Directed by Keoni Waxman
Looking at the names splashed atop the cover of Hunt to Kill, you’d swear it was an Expendables bad guy reunion flick: Steve Austin, Eric Roberts, and Gary Daniels. Only major bad guys from The Expendables missing are Dolph Lundgren and the fellow that played the General. Eric Roberts only appears briefly as Austin’s laid back Border Patrol partner killed in a meth lab bust gone wrong before the opening credits even roll. A clean shaven Gary Daniels once again plays a second fiddle henchman to the main villain, his big mano-a-mano fight scene with Austin being the movie’s action highlight.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin stars as Jim Rhodes, a Texas Border Patrol agent relocated to the woods of Montana along the Canadian border trying to raise a rebellious teenage daughter, Kimberly. Austin does fine in the role considering what a marginal, strictly by-the-numbers action thriller Hunt to Kill turns out to be, but the only range you’ll get from Austin’s performance is the distance from which he fires his crossbow or hurls a makeshift spear he carved with his pocketknife. Just as The Rock has yet to truly find a big screen role that truly capitalizes on the persona that made him a pro wrestling mega star, Austin has to find a film that portrays him as the bad attitude asskicker that made “Austin 3:16” part of the pop culture lexicon.
A team of Nevada bank robbers get double-crossed by their leader, who schemes to sneak across the Canadian Border through the Montana woods with all the money for himself. The rest of the gang set out in pursuit, now being led by the real brains behind the heist, a sociopath named Banks (Gil Bellows of “Ally McBeal” fame as one of those calm, cool, I’m-smarter-than-you movie villains who isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is and quickly devolves into a screaming lunatic the moment things don’t work out as planned).
When Kimberly gets taken captive almost as soon as the bickering thieves blow into town, Rhodes offers them his skills as a seasoned tracker to lead them into the treacherous Montana wilderness to hunt down their betrayer and escape across the border into Canada with the loot. It won’t take long before these criminals learn they’ve made two fatal errors: you don’t take Steve Austin’s daughter hostage, and whatever you do, for heaven’s sake, never ever steal Steve Austin’s watch.
If you thought the fleeing robbers in the World Wrestling Entertainment produced John Cena actioner The Marine (useless trivia: That movie was originally written to star Steve Austin until he had a falling out with WWE) were prone to extremely illogical behavior and needless in-fighting, then just wait until you see these idiots at work. Waltz into a small town and immediately storm the police station, take the sheriff hostage, and put a bullet between the old man’s eyes for no particular reason; so much for keeping a low profile. Once in the woods it takes about five minutes into their trek for the only character of color in the entire film to attempt to rape teenage Kimberly. As soon as they get their hands on the money bag, Banks decides now would be a good time to kill Rhodes without giving any thought to this potentially leaving them stranded out in the middle of the wild with no clue how to find their way to the border.
Annoying daughter Kimberly also has a bad habit of contradicting herself. She pleads with her father to fight back, and the first opportunity he gets to do so, she turns around and begs him not to out of fear for their safety and then further scolds him afterwards for never taking her well-being into consideration even though rescuing them both is precisely what he was trying to do. Fortunately for their troubled relationship, nothing brings an estranged father and daughter together quite like impaling criminals with large pointy sticks.
To get to the impaling, you have to be willing to stick it out through a plodding first hour that constantly threatens to test your patience with an overabundance of nature hiking at gunpoint and bickering amongst thieves in lieu of the action film you go in expecting. I never once found the Rhodes’ peril particularly suspenseful no matter how much the score tried to assure me what I was watching was filled with nail-biting tension.
But then Steve Austin finally gets his stone cold on during the final half hour, and Hunt to Kill at last becomes the violent Eighties-style kill-a-thon it’s being sold as. Austin even gets a full Rambo montage complete with him cauterizing an abdominal wound and applying greasepaint to his face in preparation of heading off to hunt down and kill the bad guys still holding his daughter hostage using only his survival training, his trusty crossbow, and his impeccable stick carving skills. Several of these kills are accompanied by corny one-liners, like when Austin taunts “Sorry, I couldn’t stick around” as he spears someone through the torso with a sharp tree branch.
SPOILER: The climactic fight to the death between Rhodes and Banks culminates with one of the silliest bad guy movie deaths I’ve witnessed in quite a while. Although considering this is the “bionic redneck” Steve Austin we’re talking about, I suppose it really was only a matter of time before he found a way to brutally murder another human being using a four-wheeler.
2 out of 5
Discuss Hunt to Kill in the comments section below!