Legendary star Steve McQueen shines bright in his final film THE HUNTER
“I’m getting too old for this shit.”
When people talk about the late “King of Cool” Steve McQueen they usually bring up his big hits like the The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Bullitt, and Papillon. Maybe you’ll even get a geek like myself that thinks THE BLOB is awesome. THE HUNTER was sadly McQueen’s final film before his untimely death in 1980. It was the third film in his planned “comeback trilogy” which included An Enemy of the People (1978) and Tom Horn (1980). Following his appearance in The Towering Inferno (1974) McQueen had taken a hiatius from acting. The screenplay for THE HUNTER was based on the autobiography of real life bounty hunter Ralph “Papa” Thorson. Before guys like Dog The Bounty Hunter, there was “Papa”. Thorson himself was a technical consultant and also has a cameo in the movie as a bartender. An interesting geek connection to this role is that early in his career Steve McQueen played Josh Randall, a bounty hunter on the Western TV series: Wanted Dead Or Alive. Thorson (McQueen) works out of Los Angeles and is trying to keep a relationship going with his pregnant girlfriend Dotty (Kathryn Harrold) while he performs his bounty hunting duties. His unique, often dangerous line of work takes “Papa” all over from California to Illinois down to Texas. Thorson’s claim to fame was that he took down over 5,000 criminals during his time. While Papa is out working his trade, he has a small group of friends that hang out at his house. One of these include an ex-criminal Tommy Price who is played by a young LeVar Burton. At the time McQueen was a fan of Burton’s work and had the role written especially for him. At its core, THE HUNTER is essentially a Western set in the modern era which gives it a very familiar feel if you love that genre. Having co-stars Eli Wallach (The Magnificent Seven), as Thorson’s bail bondsman contact and Ben Johnson, who plays Sheriff Strong in the film, is yet another little dash of the Western flavor. There are several exciting action sequences featured, one of which recalls The French Connection in that it involves Thorson apprehending a criminal set around an elevated train. The main difference being instead of a car chase, Thorson rides on top of the traincar and nearly falls off in one of the film’s best stunts. A fun inside joke is Thorson’s terrible driving, which McQueen purposely chose since he was in reality an exceptional driver who loved auto and bike racing. THE HUNTER remains an often forgotten action classic that was really the perfect culmination to McQueen’s illustrious career as an action star.