Richard Shepard only thinks he knows how to fake it so real that he’s beyond fake, bringing the same obnoxious, flashy style and go-nowhere satirical instincts to The Hunting Party that he applied to The Matador and the pilot episode of ABC’s Ugly Betty. The film’s opening title card—“Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true”—is instructive: a double-edged groaner that exemplifies the story’s paltry sense of humor and Shepard’s lame-o attempt at inoculating himself against criticism. When TV reporter Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) and cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard) trudge through a Somalian war zone, barely batting an eye as they dodge bullets and explosions, you half expect the camera to pull back and reveal the men on the set of a film shoot. But this isn’t Wag the Dog, just pure serio-comic Hollywoodese.
Years after spazzing out on camera and losing his network cred, Simon returns from oblivion, promising Duck the scoop of a lifetime when he says he knows the whereabouts of Bosnia’s most wanted war criminal, The Fox (Ljubomir Kerekes). With the son (Jesse Eisenberg) of his network’s vice president in tow, Duck joins Simon on a preposterous tour of the Bosnia and Herzegovina region, where the “woods know when there’s blood in the air” and a woman certifies her authority by stating, “You don’t know shit until you’ve been gang raped for seven hours.” Awkward! And yet, not as awkward as the film’s multiple references to cock (Gere’s pointy one and the big Serbian variety that will go up his butt if he doesn’t stop looking for The Fox), Duck intermittingly taking a break from the gang’s war-gaming to call his girlfriend (Joy Bryant), who is vacationing in an inexplicably hippety-hopped vision of Greece, or the bird-brained war commentary that reaches an inane breaking point when Simon declares, “Putting your life in danger is actual living, the rest is television.” Kill me now.