This serious 1860s set bounty hunter drama is the antithesis of Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but in the best possible ways. A purposefully metered and purposely direful journey, it has a lot more in common with John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road than its synopsis might suggest (albeit with a larger cast).
Orphaned 13 year old Will (Ashton Sanders) works with his scheming uncle Marcus (Keston John) on a bounty hunting squad during the waning days of the American Civil War. Both being black, the duo are tasked with retrieving a dangerous bounty on their own without the help of their all white crew. Their target: the soft spoken alleged murderer and runaway slave Nate (Tishuan Scott), who the pair lure in by saying his already deceased brother is actually still alive and in need of assistance.
Will and Nate begin to bond, much to the chagrin of the goal oriented Marcus, but a second act twist will force Will and Nate to trust each other more than the other person necessarily feels comfortable doing. Nate doesn’t know Marcus and Will are bounty hunters, but he knows something isn’t quite right. This dynamic takes writer and director Chris Eska’s film the extra mile in the face of some sometimes clunky exposition and a few needlessly overblown dramatic touches.
Scott plays the strong silent type with a great amount of intelligence and confidence, while John is a blast to watch as the borderline psychotic opportunist. The real revelation here, however, is Scott, playing a young man unsure if he wants a father or if he simply wants to be his own man. Together they make The Retrieval a very watchable and twisty journey.
Sunday, February 16th, 9:00pm, Carlton Cinema (Closing Night Gala)