Young Hunter ***
Starring: Juan Pablo Cestaro, Juan Barberini, Lautaro Rodriguez, Patricio Rodriguez
Director: Marco Berger
Argentina has been the source of some of the strongest LGBT+ movies from South America in recent years. Last year saw Lautaro Rodriguez star in My Best Friend and now he features in this, the new movie from Marco Berger, the man behind The Blonde One and Taekwondo.
Ezequiel (Cestero) is a fifteen year-old who wants to explore his sexuality. When he meets the older and handsome Mono (Rodriguez) he can’t believe his luck as they begin what he thinks is a relationship. But after they have sex, Mono vanishes and Ezequial discovers that their encounter has been recorded and given to Mono’s older friend (Bareberini) who runs a child-pornography ring. In order to keep this video from being circulated, Ezequial agrees to act just as Mono had, in tempting younger teens into having sex with him so it can all be caught on camera.
On paper, this sounds like a fascinating movie. The question of how young people get involved in criminal networks like these is fully explored here, which takes a boy from an affluent background and thrusts him into the criminal underbelly of exploitation. However, its execution leads a lot to be desired.
The pace is indelibly slow and its motives particularly unclear. Ezequiel isn’t that likeable a subject and his prominent monobrow feels deliberate and contrived to signify that this “young hunter” feels more culpable than perhaps he should. In fact, for a movie about abuse, the positioning of this fifteen year-old boy as partially at fault is toeing the line of something much more problematic. Of course, he is not the one responsible for what happens, but he’s certainly not as innocent as you might think. It’s only in later scenes that we see him exactly as he should be; a vulnerable teenage victim who has been fully taken advantage of.
Billed as a thriller and with its more sexualised scenes laced with rising tension, it manages to build that intense feeling of dread, but it drags its feet at every juncture and struggles to inspire any feeling of real empathy. Berger has made some strong movies before, but unfortunately, this is a lesser work from his canon.
OUT NOW TO WATCH ON DEMAND ON DEKKOO, RELEASED BY TLA RELEASING.