The Tracker, 2019
Directed by Giorgio Serafini.
Starring Dolph Lundgren, Cosimo Fusco, Anna Falchi, Marco Mazzoli and Marta Gastini.
A mysterious stranger travels to a remote village where, 15 years earlier, his wife and daughter were kidnapped.
With Dolph Lundgren riding on a high following the double whammy of Aquaman and Creed 2 last year, and the promise of sequel returns as King Nereus (Aquaman) and the impending Expendables 4, times are good for the big Swede. Throw in an appearance in Season 14 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (the best sitcom still in production, bar none) and the reported TV collaboration with Sly Stallone (which would see Lundgren headline a series reputedly attracting heavy hitters like CBS, Fox and Netflix among others) and he’s got TV well covered too.
Here’s the thing…Dolph has made a lot of dross of late. Even in comparison to the video era films of the 90’s and early 00’s that many would have considered woeful at the time, his films, like many treading DTV (direct to video) land these days, are getting worse. In part that is down to even less money going into them and tighter schedules. Even compared to a glory era time in video action when companies like Nu Image reigned supreme, there was, even with a slightly haphazard approach at times, still some care and attention. In the digital era too, everything is quicker and easier to do and prolific outpourers of video fodder can often rest a little too much on that ease. Lundgren’s direct follow up to Aquaman 2 wasn’t something on the up. It was Dead Trigger, as low rent and poorly constructed a zombie film as you could find. Rivalling a few memorable turdsters as a potential career low. Now following up Dead Trigger we have Dolph revisiting the tried and tested dead family revenge film as best seen from him in The Punisher and The Mechanik. It’s the fairly standard routine of bent cops and kingpins in a film that opens with a narration (unenthusiastically sighed out by Lundgren) which promises a bit more of a philosophical approach to the genre. The film never backs that up.
Another issue with The Tracker is how half-hearted it all seems. A lacklustre script, which in fairness may have been written on spec and around all manner of limitations (I have experience myself in this). It’s difficult, because despite a somewhat philosophical pondering from our protagonist initially, distributors of these films don’t want philosophical musing. Hit roughly 90 minutes. Make it simple, linear, clear (bar some obligatory twists from your genre rollerdex-o-twists) and have enough set pieces to entertain (and all fitting within said tight schedule, which back in the 90’s for this kind of film would have been a luxurious 30 days generally, but these days half that, sometimes even less). The whole edit feels like a rough fast pass. There’s little attempt at pacing. The film plods from one scene to the next, framed as efficiently (but uninspired) as possible. There’s also very little ‘tracking’ involved as Dolph lumbers ever too conveniently to the truth thanks to concerned neighbours or crims coming after him.
What of the biggest issue? Well it’s shot in Italy. The scope here to have a cool, Italy set thriller, albeit with a well trodden genre, was still huge. This is a place with rich cinematic history (think particularly Rome and Venice) with its share of wonderful thrillers. Something about the architecture, the surroundings just make for great cinematography and atmosphere and The Tracker achieves the nigh-on impossible; it makes Italy look dull (Taranta has visual dashes of Rome and Naples here and there, condensed in size, but is never made to look engaging). Shooting quickly has advantages and disadvantages. If you’re not afforded the same time as Roger Deakins you won’t get close to evoking his photographic genius. Everything feels a bit flat and visually as viewer you just get the impression that even having shot fairly flat, the work in post was perfunctory. This is an issue that riles me about shooting on modern digital cameras. You get the best of the best Red or Arris and suddenly that’s enough. ‘We’ve spent enough, lets go half on the lenses, shoot a fairly flat canvas and spruce in post.’ It’s a kind of common strand that runs from student films all the way up to productions costing into the millions. Let the camera do most of the work, but the results come across as dreary more often than not.
Director Giorgio Serafini has plenty of experience. He’s technically a good choice to guide a film like this through to completion but it doesn’t feel like a passion piece. It feels like a day job (yeah of course, it is) and there’s not much creativity or invention. Sometimes a film like this can benefit from a young upstart over a safe bet (or someone refocusing from another role). Someone who wants to make a big impression despite the limitations imposed. If we look from the investors P.O.V of course that can lead to running over schedule or budget or the upstart losing a grip on production. Still, safe bet is order of the day through the biggest films going, and it filters down. The best part of the film is the music by Sandro Di Stefano. It feels like they made the effort (including some live orchestral work) but on the flipside, it doesn’t quite fit the film (that’s perhaps more down to the editing). On its own it would make a good listen.
Everyone within the business or plugging away to find a door in wants to make films. Some people want in to make money from it. The collaboration between the creatives and the financers is often turbulent, and ultimately you have a choice as one of the creatives; Make the film under these parameters or don’t make a film…if you choose the latter it might be your last. Still, excuses do still run thin when the film turns out as uninspired as The Tracker. Sapped of all thrills and with everything feeling like first pass/rehearsal, it’s an uninspiring addition to Lundgren’s CV, but a further reminder, that outside of franchise films, the more enticing path for most actors really should be TV. Whilst a trip to Italy and an easy payday can’t be all bad for Lundgren, it’s creatively empty and in proving he’s actually a capable actor to a wide audience (in Creed 2 and Aquaman), his potential move to TV in a high level network show can’t come soon enough. The Tracker is the sort of production he should be moving beyond now, particularly now he’s passed 60.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/