Eye For Film >> Movies >> Hounded (2022) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Another year, another rich people hunting humans for sport film. The Most Dangerous Game was a splendid film (and book), but viewers would be forgiven for thinking that this trope is getting a little old now. Nevertheless, every few years one of these stories comes along which is sufficiently inventive or well made to breathe new life into it. Whilst Hounded doesn’t have a great deal to add to the premise, it does have well-drawn characters and a capable young cast who are well worth watching. It also makes timely use of public sensitivities around the British class system.
We begin with a group of young thieves breaking into a remote country house to steal a painting. Their leader, Leon (Nobuse Jnr), runs a tight ship, making sure that everyone behaves and that nothing else is taken from the house or treated disrespectfully. Vix (Hannah Traylen) shows a soft side by calming down the dog they meet there, fussing over it affectionately. The man who commissioned the job is pleased with the outcome. He offers them more work. Leon doesn’t want it – his whole plan has been simply to raise enough money to put little brother Chaz (Malachi Pullar-Latchman) through university, giving him a future beyond the bounds of their Peckham housing estate. Vix, however, bristles at the idea of getting a job. “Doing what? Zero hour contracts? I’d rather be a thief than work for one.”
Whilst the inherent goodness of these young people might feel a bit over-egged, the actors are skilled enough to carry it off and keep them feeling real. Suffice to say that the gang agrees to do the job after all, and that it doesn’t go to plan. Before they know it, they have been tasered, bound and gagged, and thrown into the back of a van, only to be dumped unceremoniously in a field, where they mistakenly assume that their lesson is over and that what homeowner Kat (Samantha Bond) told them about the justice system not being worth the effort means that they can go home now – if they can figure out which way home is. Of course, viewers know better. There’s a sweet moment when our heroes mistake a hunting horn for a car horn and begin to run towards it, but they figure it out soon enough.
Hounded was plainly made on a small budget. Indoor location shots are kept to a minimum, the sound design implies that there are a lot more dogs than we ever see onscreen, etc. Nevertheless, director Tommy Boulding, whose background is in editing and who previously worked with Pullar-Latchman on Shark Bait, does a good job of creating atmosphere with a swathe of countryside whose nature and hazards are totally unfamiliar to the young people. Dangers which viewers will be anticipating and cleverly reworked to provide successful scares, whilst the camaraderie within the group makes it easy to get drawn in and feel involved.
If there’s a notable weakness to the film, it’s that the aristocratic bad guys are not nearly so well developed. Bond does a good dominatrix act in red riding gear, but beyond a well trained accent and sense of entitlement, there’s no depth to her character. Boulding seems to be working from the assumption that none of these people feel empathy even for their own kind, which may suffice for satirical purposes but inevitably leaves them feeling rather cartoonish.
By contrast with this, the characters of the thieves are well rounded and full of detail. Traylen brings a lot of heart to her portrayal of a young woman from an abusive background who is terrified of being locked up, whilst Pullar-Latchman once again demonstrates a sensitivity which marks him out as among the most promising talents of his generation. This quality proves essential to the film’s ability to shift gears and deliver something more sophisticated than straight out class war or persecution. Whilst it dices with the paranoia of an earlier age, it ultimately delivers something indicative of a generational shift in attitudes. Despite the cynicism of its premise and the criminal behaviour of its protagonists, it’s a film about justice which never turns its back on the possibility of positive change. A real crowd-pleaser at Frightfest 2022, it looks set for success.
Hounded will be released by Signature Entertainment on Halloween.Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2022
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