Keoni Waxman directs Steve Austin in Hunt to Kill, a rough and tumble actioner from 2010. With a screenplay by Jack Hannah and uncomplicated cinematography by Tom Harting, there’s something agreeable about this direct-to-video endeavour. It doesn’t punch above its paygrade and knows how to play to Austin’s strengths, with a meat and potatoes physicality that lands more often than not.
This isn’t a spectacular film, but it is a lot more cohesive than most of Waxman’s work with one Steven Seagal. In fairness, a lot of Hunt to Kill’s good points relate to the corporeal capacity of its star. While Seagal is mostly restricted in his Waxman efforts, Austin is able to ball through the forest with aplomb.
Austin plays border patrol officer Jim Rhodes. The audience meets him as he loses his friend and partner Lee (Eric Roberts) in a meth lab shootout. Years later, Jim lives in the Montana wilds with his teenage daughter Kim (Marie Avgeropoulos). Everything goes to hell when Kim finds herself in the midst of a crew of bank robbers, who are looking to recover some lost bonds.
The thieves are led by Banks (Gil Bellows), who is seeking his former boss (Michael Hogan) and forces Jim to lead him through the forest. Banks and his allies drag Jim and his daughter into the woods, but the squad is less than solid and trouble starts brewing. Jim tries to protect his daughter at all costs.
Hunt to Kill is standard fare and Austin works the gimmick well. He looks like a man who knows his way around Montana and he’s game for all the woodland workmanship, which includes some rip-roaring fisticuffs and a few treacherous tumbles. One particular fall has his character slipping down a slick rock wall.
It’s true that most of the characters are clichés, with the teenager not getting along with her father and the robbers filling out the scorecard with the tech guy (Michael Eklund), the foreigner (Gary Daniels) and the babe (Emilie Ullerup). Naturally, the babe seems closest to redemption.
Bellows makes for a good foil, with plenty of psychotic outbursts peppering the dense foliage. He has the sort of face that seems to demand a few swift punches, so pitting him against the insatiable determination of Austin’s straightforward Jim is wise.
It’s also nice to see Austin take some punches and behave like a proper action hero. He gets knocked around an awful lot and seems outmatched at times, like when he takes on Daniels and has to get creative in order to beat the kick-ass bad dude. This gives his character a credibility that stands in stark contrast to a multitude of superheroes and impossibly faultless heroes.
Hunt to Kill has a throwback feel that should please fans of 1990s action pictures. Waxman’s movie knows its role and plays things out in a straight, brawny style. It’s the sort of thing where the audience is just waiting for the star, eyes full of glint and grit, to say the title of the movie through clenched teeth while something blows the hell up behind him. And boy, does he deliver.