Directed by Mauro Borrelli.
Starring Robert Knepper, Jackson Rathbone, Mickey Rourke, Aglaya Tarasova, Anna Paliga, Fredrik Wagner, Lorenzo de Moor, Polina Pushkareva, Josh Burdett, Alex Mills, Lou Stassen, Christopher Hunter, Elliott Wooster, Ben McKeown, Ieva Seglina, and Timo Willman.
1945. A U.S. military cargo plane loses control and violently crashes behind enemy lines in the middle of the German black forest. Major Johnson sends a squad of his bravest soldiers on a rescue mission to retrieve the top-secret material the plane was carrying, led by Sergeants Brewer and Walsh. They soon discover hanged Nazi soldiers and other dead bodies bearing ancient, magical symbols. Suddenly their compasses fail, their perceptions twist, and straying from the group leads to profound horrors as they are attacked by a powerful, supernatural force.
In WarHunt, some seemingly important World War II cargo goes down with an American aircraft over a mysterious German forest, all as the opening credits make abundantly clear that the characters will be fighting off something supernatural. Naturally, another team is called in for a retrieval mission, bringing forth a host of soldiers that mostly blend in save for an eccentric personality here and a family man there.
Robert Knepper is Sergeant Brewer, a leader who has seen his fair share of tragedy on the battlefield. He is now determined never to leave any soldier behind, even if it means jeopardizing the objective or his life. This information is delivered through a conversation with Mickey Rourke’s Major Johnson, working alongside a cryptologist to crack ancient Germanic scribes that possibly have something to do with the dangers of the forest that no one really knows about or understands yet. This allows one group of actors to be in the thick of a descent into madness (while escorting a battered and bruised Nazi they come across that might have explanations), attacked by witches that can shapeshift into crows and teleports all over the environment. At the same time, Mickey Rourke essentially does nothing until his lazy, climactic heroic moment.
WarHunt doesn’t amount to much beyond Heart of Darkness but with witches and Nazis, which is unfortunate considering that’s an enticing concept. The issue is that none of these soldiers ever really grow to become likable or even identifiable enough to care when they are in danger. In contrast, the witches (also capable of mimicking humans as a means of seduction) feel cheap and nonthreatening in design and execution. Not to mention, when Mickey Rourke arrives spraying machine-gun fire, they instantly become terrified, making the whole endeavor beyond ridiculous.
Some elements here do work, such as the mental distortion spell the soldiers are placed under. Sure, it leads to the usual clichés of going insane (there are visual tricks involving cannibalism), but the cast is game enough to make these breakdowns reasonably entertaining. Robert Knepper is the standout here, slowly turning against his entire faction from the mind games while seemingly having a good time chewing up the scenery and fashion that works for B-movie schlock. One imagines a better movie that excises Mickey Rourke to give Robert Knepper more material to work with.
Credit also goes to director Mauro Borrelli (a visual effects veteran that has worked on several major blockbusters over the past few decades) for applying his industry experience to the makeup effects side of production, as there are some pleasantly grotesque character transformations. The weak CGI is another story, which is doubly frustrating considering the entire film is in pitch-black darkness to compromise and hard to make out what’s going on at any given moment, especially when one of the already incomprehensible shootouts erupts. Mauro Borrelli also wrote the generic script alongside Reggie Keyohara III and Scott Svatos, which goes exactly where you would expect a supernatural story involving Nazis.
WarHunt has fits and bursts of predictable but twisted psychological goodness but can’t quite overcome cardboard characters, a stale endgame, and a Mickey Rourke appearance that deflates whatever excitement there is to be found in the final battle because he’s only here to collect a paycheck. Go on a hunt for better movies to watch.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com