Monster Hunter

Monster Hunter ★★★½

Strikes me as a transitional work for Anderson, comparatively low on the formal experimentation and collapsing pageantry that he usually brings to the table. That middle stretch is basically perfect though. As much as I adore those "Resident Evil" movies, I'd be lying if I argued that any actor in them wasn't stuck playing second fiddle to Jovovich. Here she finally gets a worthy scene partner in Jaa. It's a treat to see both of them slice and dice kaiju with big ass swords, but the best action here is contained within a series of fistfights between the two in which they pass high/low-status back and forth. Their relationship to each other evolves from prisoner to ally to friend, a generic and nearly wordless blossoming that is driven by these distinct full-body expressions of humored understanding and exhaustion. It's this intersection of commitment and economy that sets Jovovich and Jaa apart as such generous, compelling physical performers. The rest of the movie is pretty fun too, carried by Anderson's great eye for composition and some creative use of scale in the monsters and landscapes. He runs into some trouble navigating the PG-13 rating with the early military carnage. The film moves beyond that though, stripping itself of parts to become a simple two-hander before building into a realm of fantasy superpowers. Once a himbo cat chef pops up in the home stretch, the tone has decidedly shifted, yet the change barely registers because the movie sees its material for what it is and is straight-forward about what it has to offer. Drive-ins are fun. Happy New Year, everyone! Little late here, but hope you're all taking care of yourselves.

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