tue 07/07/2020

The Hunter, All4 | reviews, news & interviews

The Hunter, All4

The Hunter, All4

Glossy, superficial and cartoonish – you may be hunting for the remote

Yannick Soulier: Samuel Delaunay, externalising his aggression

Crime and detective drama often shows us who we think we are. Despite typically baroque plotting, and murder statistics in which the sleepiest of rural settings shades downtown Aleppo, there’s a sense that in how we respond to poisoning, stabbing and strangling, a quintessential national characteristic emerges. Be it Sarah Lund, Hercule Poirot, or any of Ray Winstone’s gravelly felons, television’s criminals and detectives hold a mirror to the soul.  

In the case of French crime show The Hunter, broadcast as part of All4’s festival of European TV drama, Walter Presents, it feels as if the pitch came from one of Boris Johnson’s limericks. Superficial, treacherous, and bed-hopping, it presents a Viz-comic version of French high society, which breezes along entertainingly, but with such facile characterisation that any serious interest is soon lost.   

Marie-France Pisier and Yannick Soulier star as mother and son Natacha and Samuel Delaunay, who run a company offering unconventional solutions to personal legal problems. These often result in a visit from “the cleaners”, discreet undertakers to the gangster class,  usually after Samuel has resolved the client’s problem with a silent bullet to the neck. So perfunctory are Samuel’s assassinations, however, that all sense of challenge and tension is lost. He might as well be flossing his teeth.

It has the feel of glossy cliché burnished to a state of hilarious high camp

Not content with assassinating the inconvenient, Samuel and his mother also entertain us with a sexually tense relationship of grotesque tabloid Freudianism. Using a repertoire of winks and smirks that would show up most Widow Twankeys, Natacha lays into Samuel’s glamorous new wife, who just happens to be a gambling addict and assassination target of one of Natacha’s rivals, the cartoonishly sinister Franck Peszynski. Samuel, meanwhile, continues to take out the anger he feels towards his controlling mother on a series of innocent people, while his wife – beautiful but apparently very stupid – believes him to have a conventional lawyer’s job.

Visually, the show is as glossily veneered as the characterisation. Locations are vast, blank contemporary spaces, either the Delaunays’ impossibly luxurious and shiny apartments, or crime scenes so freakishly bleak and featureless they could be anywhere. Credit where it’s due, even France’s multi-story car parks manage to look glamorous. But everything is so surgically neat, our attention can only settle on the hardened surfaces of both character and setting, and there we find precious little enduring drama. Ultimately, it has the feel of glossy cliché burnished to a state of hilarious high camp that’s little short of those famous embassy-based Ferrero Rocher adverts.

A flurry of interviews has presented the cerebrally domed Walter Iuzzolino, who curated the shows presented, as a champion of highbrow TV. With this show, entertaining but trashy, he has made the worthwhile but nevertheless disappointing observation that expensive production values and glamorous foreign locations don’t necessarily create high televisual art. Europe does trash TV too.


It feels as if the pitch came from one of Boris Johnson’s limericks


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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