Night of the Hunted (2023) Movie Review – A reasonably effective cat-and-mouse thriller

A reasonably effective cat-and-mouse thriller

A sniper isn’t somebody you would usually worry about when stepping into a gas station to buy snacks and pay for fuel. The biggest concerns on your mind would likely be the rising cost of gas and the extortionate prices these places charge for everyday items that cost much less in supermarkets.

But for Alice (Camille Rowe), the unlucky woman at the heart of director Franck Khalfoun’s (Maniac) latest movie, a sniper does become her primary cause of concern when he starts to take potshots at her from a billboard some distance away. As the bullets whiz through the air and through the station store’s windows, her only option is to find somewhere to hide, which isn’t easy when the person targeting her has his sights firmly fixed on her position. 

At first, his reason for shooting at her seems completely random. It would appear that she is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, at the mercy of a gunman who has recently murdered his cheating wife, whose body Alice finds when she steps into the store. 

But as the movie progresses and we hear a conversation between Alice and the sniper on a conveniently placed walkie-talkie, it becomes possible that he might have a secret vendetta against her. For one thing, Alice has been cheating on her husband and the gunman has knowledge of this. Is he taking aim at her because she reminds him of his adulterous wife? It’s possible. 

The shooter is also aware of Alice’s marketing job at a big pharmaceutical company. He takes offence at this and accuses her of killing people for profit, so there’s a chance he is intent on wiping her out because he has a deep-rooted hatred of big corporations that spare little thought for the people they harm with their products. 

It may be that he’s a conspiracy theorist railing against the world and taking out anybody he takes a disliking to. It’s also possible that he’s a psychopathic killer who hunts people down for pleasure. But the truth doesn’t prevail, which is a little frustrating. Is Alice a victim of chance? Or has the attack on her been pre-meditated by the shooter? We don’t know!

Despite the lack of a backstory for the shooter, the movie still manages to grip for some of the running time. When Alice becomes an unwitting target, the tension rises, as we never know when a bullet will fly through the window and hit another part of her already wounded body. She isn’t the only one to come under the shooter’s crosshairs as other people enter the gas station and become victims of the gunman who has no misgivings about taking human life. 

During these scenes, the suspense is unbearable as we wait for the sniper to lay waste to another victim. Director Khalfoun, who is no stranger to this type of thriller after directing P2 (a movie about a lone woman facing off against a killer in a parking lot), manages to unsettle us as we wait with bated breath for what the sniper will do next. 

But when the bullets stop flying and Khalfoun starts to focus on the extended conversations between Alice and the gunman, the tension disappears and the movie begins to grind to a halt. You’ll be praying for another potential victim to enter the scene just to stop the shooter from rambling on about his intolerance for modern society. 

Thankfully, Camille Rowe, who stars as the hapless young woman trying to survive the night, is a capable actress. She essentially gives a one-woman show throughout most of the movie as she wanders around the store looking terrified one moment and fiercely resilient the next. Rowe manages to hold our attention, even when the plot starts to go off the rails, and she gives us somebody to root for.

Ultimately, Night of the Hunted is a movie of two halves. When it tries to be a suspense thriller, with the killer taking potshots at Alice and other unfortunate victims, it’s a reasonable exercise in terror. But when it stops for conversation via the two-way radio and takes potshots at today’s culture via the words of the sniper, it slows down to a snail’s pace and becomes something of a bore. 

If you can forgive the movie its faults, you might find something to enjoy here if you’re a fan of single-location thrillers with a protagonist in grave peril. The movie would have been better with more scenes of nail-biting tension and fewer moments of heated chatter. But it’s still okay for a one-time watch, if you’re not expecting to set your sights on it again after the end credits have rolled. 


Read More: Night of the Hunted Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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