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If you like your men dressed in a dark suit, sporting a French accent, and holding a gun, then The Hunter is the TV show for you.
This short, six-part French thriller from 2010 (called Le Chasseur) follows Samuel Delaunay (Yannick Soulier), a hit-man with an eye for a target, a brain for business, and a mum for a boss. The only time he’s ever botched a job was Lauren (Estelle Skornik), whom he promptly fell for and, instead of bumping off, decided to hook up with instead. But everyone has a reason for a target being placed on their head – and as that past comes hurtling back into Samuel and Lauren’s lives, the hunter becomes the hunted.
All of this, of course, is good news for Natacha, who disapproves of Lauren and would much rather have her son to herself. Marie-France Pisier is fun to watch as the possessive matriarch, prone to lounging around inappropriately in her luxurious living room in silk blouses, while begging Samuel to help her and her failing heart. Yannick Soulier is the perfect foil for her hammy performance, part-disgusted, part-caring and 100 per cent cool. Together, they play the scenes for somewhere between dark comedy and unsettling drama – Archer’s got nothing on this twisted mother-son relationship.
But the tone is otherwise serious, as writer Laurent Burtin keeps the pace hurtling forward, from one contract to the next. What could be a kill-of-the-week format, though, is a bit cleverer than that, as a single, season-long arc unfolds; in the age where renewal is deemed the ultimate sign of success, it’s rare for a TV show to be so sharply written, with the programme making sure that every single supporting character has an impact on the main plot. That approach keeps thing small – perfect for an easy, standalone binge-watch – but also feeds into the show’s underlying sense of paranoia; every new face we meet could potentially be working for or against Samuel’s firm, with even Lauren’s friends holding their own agendas.
The romance between the pair doesn’t always stick (Samuel is more convincing as the awkward step-father to Lauren’s bullied son), but the twisting, turning plot certainly keeps you hooked. Soulier, meanwhile, more than looks the part as he goes about his job, with director Nicolas Cuche making sure that each carefully conceived assassination impresses with both style and smarts – the more elaborate the ploy, the more satisfying the pay-off. A vaguely cliched conclusion suggests that the show was hoping for a second season, but the precisely choreographed story benefits from being so contained; even as The Hunter veers towards surface style over substance, it’s a treat to have something slick to watch without the burden of further commitment.
On the Walter Presents spectrum, the result is at the Eurotrashier end, but it’s a nice contrast to some of the more in-depth programmes on offer from All 4; like its titular lead, The Hunter is an efficient and ruthlessly entertaining thriller that hits its target dead-centre. Job done.
All episodes of The Hunter are available to stream on All 4’s Walter Presents.
For more information on the other foreign-language shows available, see our Walter Presents TV guide.