The distributors of The Killing and The Bridge, Arrow Films, announce the release of The Hunters (Jägarna), the 1996 prequel to director Kjell Sundvall’s 2011 crime thriller False Trail (Jägarna II), on DVD for the first time in the UK.
After killing a man in the line of duty and almost losing his own life in the process, Erik (Rolf Lassgård) is transferred from the Stockholm police department to the small police station in his home village of Norrland, Sweden. There, Erik is reunited with his relatives at his abusive father’s funeral, where his younger brother Leif (Lennart Jähkel) welcomes him with open arms. Much of Erik’s work out in the sticks involves uncovering secrets concerning the slaughter of the local reindeer. When the local police turn a blind eye, it is only natural that Erik starts taking matters into his own hands.
Events take a further turn for the worse and violence erupts in the village when the closed community grow angry and unite against Erik’s effort to uncover the truth. However, this film makes it difficult to truly side with Erik in his pursuit for justice as his character doesn’t come across as particularly likeable, and his lack of more personal motives (aside from that of simply doing his job) make him a character to which is is perhaps difficult for audiences to relate. It is only his burden of guilt at leaving his brother to suffer at the hand of their abusive father, and his desire to make amends, which gains our sympathy. Erik never quite makes it as a hero; just a good guy in a bad situation.
That said, Lennart Jähkel, who plays his brother Leif, is easy to hate. His greed, racist remarks and sexist behaviour all make him a worthy villain of this tale. It is down to his troublesome character that the primary investigation takes a back seat, launching a wider inquiry to uncover further corruption within the village.
With much of the plot revolving around money, The Hunters proves itself to be a film which holds much relevance within society today. Money makes people do ruthless things and director Kjell Sundvall highlights many such unspeakable actions within parts of this film. As friends become enemies and the poachers turn their hands to everything from rape to murder to avoid losing profit, the director does a good job of building a hatred for the characters on screen and leaving viewers feeling on edge.
Action-packed and with plenty of strong violence, this intense Swedish thriller is well put together and remains compelling despite a lacklustre leading man, as it follows Erik’s agony at having to fight against his wayward brother in his campaign for justice. A Swedish classic.
The Hunters (Jägarna) will be released on DVD in the UK on 10th December, 2012.
Check out the trailer below: