The Hunter (1980)


Steve McQueen's last two films (Tom Horn and The Hunter, both released in 1980) were both troubled productions and both flops at the box office. Which is too bad in the case of the former, which is a solid enough western and a treat to see McQueen give if not an iconic Western performance definitely a worthy inclusion to the repertoire. In the case of The Hunter, it's no masterpiece, but it's a perfect candidate for The Scenic Route.

McQueen plays Ralph "Papa" Thorson, bounty hunter extraordinaire, whose life, the opening text tells us, is getting too complicated.
As he goes about his job, he and his pregnant ladyfriend are stalked by VW-van-psycho-killer.
The line between his personal and professional life blurs and un-blurs apace.


Steve McQueen
Kathryn Harrold
Tracey Walter
LeVar Burton
And (briefly) Papa Thorson himself.

Eli Wallach and a bunch of others, too. Now let's get to the cars!

Outside of Chicago and a handful of spots around the state, Illinois looks mostly in 2018 the way it did in 1980. Altough the script has Papa travel to Texas and elsewhere, the whole movie was shot throughout Illinois, opening in Joliet:

And quite a bit in Kankakee County, IL, which has (like any non-Cook IL County) a rural element but is characterized mainly in 2018 by rte 57 and attendant gas and fast food and outlet shopping. Starting with Herscher and Bonfield and continuing into Aroma Park:

And at Greater Kankakee Airport:

The cornfield set pieces were fun for me as I recently did a work trip through the very same fields - well, not quite the same, but the same visuals at least. I don't know how much variety there is in corn and soybean fields throughout any of the Prairie states, to be honest, Illinois very much so.

The ending chase is shot - excitingly for your humble narrator - on the "El" CTA tracks of the commute I used to have (the Brown line, heading through Old Town, Chicago) and showcasing Marina City, i.e. the Marina Towers, two-of-many-but-still-cool-recognizable-Chicago-skyline features.

Almost everything I've read for this blog was read on this train line commuting back and forth on the brown line.
And like Steve McQueen, I wrote the entirety of the King's Highway on top of the train car.

The various characterizations of McQueen's character (his clumsy driving, his love of La Traviata, his train set, his heart, the whole deal with his drunk cop friend - or, as Rogert Ebert put rather uncharitably in his review: "McQueen is a lousy driver. He also collects antique windup toys. He wears funny glasses. His wife is pregnant, and he attends natural childbirth classes with her. He has a dog that doesn't like him. A bunch of guys are always playing poker in his living room. In one ridiculous scene, he argues with his wife while sitting on a stepladder, wearing his funny glasses, and working on a windup toy with a screwdriver. It's all just, "business" things the actor is given to do while saying his lines."

Perhaps Ebert is correct. But none of these things bothered me. I think had Ebert saw it in 2018 like me he'd have said (1) "Hey, I'm alive! Suddenly I'm not so cranky!" and (2) "Had I known at the time of my original review that this film would have led to Midnight Run - among other things - I'd have been more forgiving"