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Overall Rating
4.31

Awesome60.71%
Worth A Look: 22.14%
Average: 5.71%
Pretty Bad: 10%
Total Crap: 1.43%

5 reviews, 110 user ratings


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Deer Hunter, The
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by Zarathustra

"Intriguing and often gripping movie, yet somehow lacking"
4 stars

Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter won a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture, but twenty years later the movie's shortcomings are apparent. It's a fine, intelligent, and exciting war drama about friends who go off to fight in Vietnam, but the emphasis is more on the fearful anticipation and the painful aftermath of combat rather than the combat itself.

The movie is divided into three acts. First, we see a group of American friends (Pennsylvanian??) on their last night together before some of them head off to war. They spend their final hours getting drunk, partying, hunting (if I recall correctly, their deer hunt gives the film it's title), hanging out--but there's tension, of course, and foreboding. These are just normal working class guys who don't necessarily want to fight. There's a natural camaraderie among the characters as portrayed by Robert De Niro (the central character), John Cazale, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and George Dzundza. A young, attractive, and remarkably "un-actressy" Meryl Streep also makes an appearance.

The quiet working-class naturalism of the first act makes the second act in Vietnam seem very strange. For what we see is not a "realistic" depiction of the Vietnam war, not at all. It looks like it at first, but it's not. When the protagonists (Walken, De Niro, Cazale) get taken hostage, their Vietnamese captors force them into a game of Russian roulette. You either die for certain or take a chance and possibly come out alive. Of course, these scenes are gripping to watch (somebody has to live, somebody die), but they don't have anything to do with reality. The Russian Roulette game becomes a refrain through the rest of the movie: you'd think from seeing The Deer Hunter that this was an obsession of the Vietnamese, when it's really just a device Cimino uses to heighten the drama, as well as a metaphor for the war, I guess. It's hard to articulate what's wrong with this metaphor. It's not just that Russian Roulette is a fantasy device here, a bit of sleight of hand with no historical basis, it's that it clashes with the naturalistic tone already established. It doesn't take on any truly ominous significance, either: the metaphor is never fully developed, or developed at all really. It's just there--it's what everyone remembers about the movie--to a large extent it IS the movie, because it comes to dominate the action entirely. I don't remember any battle sequences in the movie, I just remember one Russian Roulette game after another. Cimino seems confused about what he's doing, he can't invest the Russian Roulette with symbolic significance because he doesn't know quite what he's trying to say.

In the third act, De Niro returns home and tries to resume his normal life. A romance with Meryl Streep blossoms, and the two do have chemistry together. Streep is very good here in an understated way, before she became overpraised for a strident, excessively mannered technique. Walken doesn't make it out of Vietnam, but De Niro finally returns in a coda to find out what happened to his friend: is Walken dead or alive? I won't describe what happens in the finale, but I will say I found it confusing and not quite successful.

This is a movie well worth seeing. It's quite well-acted, especially by Walken and Streep, but ultimately the symbols and visual motifs don't amount to anything. They obscure more than they illuminate. The title itself is as frustrating as anything else. "The Deer Hunter": what does the title mean? Well, we know these guys enjoy hunting: they bond over a dead deer. Presumably De Niro is the "deer hunter" of the title. Beyond that, are we supposed to understand something about the death of innocence, is "deer hunting" supposed to act as a metaphor for the Vietnam war? Is "the deer hunter" supposed to be a phrase that resonates? For me, it doesn't. The whole movie was by turns exciting, engrossing and touching, but it didn't linger in the memory.

The Deer Hunter is overlong, clocking in at about three hours, and it's not really a realistic portrait of Vietnam, but it's weirdly entertaining nonetheless. I don't think this review has really done it justice, but I can't put it any better.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1366&reviewer=213
originally posted: 05/28/00 18:14:54
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User Comments

9/11/13 Kymberly Pray In a word: classic. Well cast, and best performance of career for many. CW for president! 5 stars
4/24/12 Monday Morning David Hollands, are you on drugs, you moron? Get a frigging life. 3 stars
8/14/10 the dork knight Tons of metaphors, some of them pushing the boundries of common sense. 4 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King One of the best movies that I have ever seen 5 stars
3/02/10 PAUL SHORTT ENGROSSING, WELL MADE WAR DRAMA WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES 4 stars
8/10/09 Jeff Wilder Not as cutting as Platoon. But it still takes a piece out of you. 4 stars
9/06/08 John Winlow Brilliant portrayal of the affects a war has on everyone involved 5 stars
3/15/08 AMIR SHRY I AM SAFE 2 stars
11/29/07 Mike Hunt Deniro's is messed up because of his homo feelings toward walken 3 stars
11/18/07 Deer Hunter Critic David Hollands said, "There’s absolutely nothing sacred about DEER HUNTING!" - Duh! 5 stars
8/12/07 Gaza bored me to death; nice projectile blood though 2 stars
5/29/07 truth Vronsky is NOT A HOMO, idiot. In love with Linda the WHOLE MOVIE. Watch again. 5 stars
2/17/07 G Sherfy Saw it only once and the images still linger today; masterful performance by Walken. 5 stars
2/15/07 I Gluck Uneven but extremely watchable 4 stars
2/14/07 Jack Sommersby Direction and phoptography, first-class; the writing, however, is abysmal. 2 stars
12/05/06 David Cohen Foget this overrated pap and watch Platoon instead 2 stars
10/01/06 Carol Dellandrea Brilliant film. A classic. The contrast between the beautyof human love relationships and t 5 stars
9/13/06 Bitchflaps Interesting character study, despite serious problems with pacing and banal symbolism. 3 stars
8/16/06 Josh Racine Wow! 5 stars
5/05/06 Uri Lessing keen 4 stars
5/03/06 MP Bartley Walken is tremendous, the Russian roulette is devastating, the rest is flimsy. 4 stars
5/03/06 Matt Seaver Hard to argue with this one 4 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Flawed - but still fantastic - fantastic film. 5 stars
5/02/06 PaulBryant No problems with the movie, just misinterpretations. Astonishing film. 5 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius Problematic but very effective 4 stars
5/02/06 William Goss A decent flick, if mildly overlong and overrated. 4 stars
5/02/06 EricDSnider Great Vietnam scenes, otherwise troubled 4 stars
5/02/06 Alex Paquin Not particularly memorable except for the Russian roulette scene. 3 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH "L" 3 stars
1/22/06 CGR Excellent non-partisan movie - take note Hollywood. 5 stars
8/14/05 Ben With it 5 stars
8/05/05 Indrid Cold Excellent, but several slow and/or overdone parts. Platoon is still the best Nam movie. 5 stars
6/28/05 sa good, yeh...but noway great, nothing spectacula//stil good well told film tho 4 stars
3/31/05 Cindy Sheeks This film was beautifully made from start to finish. 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise great 4 stars
2/20/05 Angolmois Overly sentimental claptrap about 2.5 hours too long. Wedding scene was a snooze. 1 stars
12/13/04 Mrs. BrandyWool I really enjoyed this movie. I loved it. 5 stars
10/23/04 UMER deniro is stunning even without scorsese 5 stars
10/23/04 ODH Great movie, a little long (over 3 hours), but films don't get any better than this! 5 stars
8/28/04 Goggman Very Very depressing and sad. Worth watching multiple even with its 3 hour run time. 5 stars
5/11/04 Kevin Gut-wrenchingly sad, a great film. 5 stars
3/24/04 Alan Well deserved Oscars. The jump from a blissful Chopin Nocturne to the hell of war is a jolt 5 stars
1/24/04 CC Yep....Great 5 stars
1/07/04 Rajneesh Pratran Intakhab IV Worst animal documentary I've ever seen 2 stars
12/24/03 Joel W. De Sario Anti-war movie. Who in the hell likes war? 3 stars
11/27/03 John insightful and stunning in its first hour but ultimately too in love with its own grandeur 3 stars
10/28/03 Sergio A. Stunning performances. 5 stars
9/10/03 Gelasia Prewitt an evocative...a gripping film about friendship and survival!! 4 stars
8/06/03 Meggie Davis Cazale is great and gave his all for the movie 5 stars
6/29/03 DW Wildmore The story brought De Niro to tears, and me too. A Great motion picture. 5 stars
6/17/03 Rakesh Sudra very powerful film which evokes a variety of emotions 5 stars
2/25/03 Monster W. Kung Not the best Vietnam movie out there. 3 stars
2/08/03 mwildema long, it seems very very long 4 stars
1/21/03 bill An american classic... one of the best acted movies ever.. Deniro, Streep, Walken, Savage 5 stars
1/16/03 mattyfresh you gots to love the russian roulette scene. 5 stars
12/31/02 Rakesh Sudra favourite film to date 5 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby Great visuals, but a disgraceful, incoherent scripting. Zsigmond's lighting is brilliant. 2 stars
11/21/02 Milarepa Jones Excellant movie 5 stars
10/29/02 Charles Tatum I defy you to hate this film 5 stars
9/15/02 Procrastinator Breathtaking and powerful. I'd have to say this is the best-acted Vietnam film ever. 5 stars
8/25/02 Turkish great movie, and semore buts is a fuckin idiot if he never heard of russian roulette before 5 stars
4/30/02 Semore Buts Weird as hell game me a headache 1 stars
4/04/02 Cuntlicker Fantastic 5 stars
3/20/02 jazz this is but the best movie robert de niro and christopher walken could offer 5 stars
3/04/02 Girl 9 Awesome? I think not...truth is bad movies can happen to good actors. Pretty bad. 2 stars
2/17/02 Clarance WOW! Holy fuckin shit! Watch this amazing movie...man war was/is/and will always be hell!! 5 stars
2/17/02 Marcin Moczulski One of the best movies at all 5 stars
2/14/02 John Nado Beautiful, truly a cinema gem 5 stars
2/05/02 Allan Brown Excellent, tragic: a view of the vietnam war as it was - useless and good for nothing. 5 stars
1/19/02 wintermute Here's an awkward question: Hey Michael, What happened? 5 stars
11/10/01 Rein J. VanderZee, Jr. Best DRAMATIC American movie in Film History. 5 stars
10/18/01 Miguel E. Rodriguez Shattering...Zarathustra should check his pulse 5 stars
9/18/01 Shams Huque Famous for its Russian Roulette scene... 5 stars
9/10/01 angeles a searing trip to the surreal 5 stars
8/13/01 Edwin Menguin 'How the farmers grew their moustaches' is the song 5 stars
8/08/01 Enrique de Pedro what's the well known song everybody sings while they are in the bar and during the hunting 5 stars
7/21/01 André Grisell Engaging, calm, beatiful. Wonderful soundtrack! 5 stars
7/03/01 jacqui best depiction of life, death and relationships as we live them; Walken is a relevation! 5 stars
6/15/01 Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam & Howe Despite a wedding shot in real time, movie has much value 5 stars
6/04/01 Basil The best russian rullette scene you will ever see. 5 stars
4/24/01 Spetters Quite good. 4 stars
4/23/01 PaulVal A real look at what the before and after of any trajedy feels like. 5 stars
3/05/01 The Bomb 69 could have cut an hour out of it but the acting and ending were riveting 5 stars
3/01/01 Walkenwoman I kneeled in the middle of my living room floor and cried. Christopher Walken is a GOD 5 stars
2/25/01 Tim Gee Flawed but powerful and engrossing - 8/10 4 stars
2/14/01 Peter Carolla Packs an emotional wallop; must be seen many times. 5 stars
12/14/00 Fluff I rented this movie to stare at Christopher Walken, and I got to. He is brilliant. 5 stars
12/06/00 Sacco Thamuz In no way was this film epic. It was overly long and too stylized to be enjoyable 2 stars
11/15/00 salvo toscano boom 5 stars
11/03/00 Cristopher Revilla my dad cryed after seeing this movie, personally, and emotionally powerful movie!!! 5 stars
5/20/00 Elvisfan the first hour drags & feels like four; after that it gets WAAAY intense 5 stars
4/06/00 perverted pixie "You see this. This is this. This ain't something else. This is this!" 5 stars
3/24/00 Bruce Two Words: Russian Roulette, abolutely amazing 5 stars
11/22/99 Tim Leary A complete masterpiece 5 stars
11/08/99 jeff frolupi this film is as powerfull and intense as motion pictures get 5 stars
10/12/99 joe good show 5 stars
9/25/99 CHRISTOPHER MARTINEZ AWESOME, POWERFUL, AND A STUNNING VISUAL CINEMATIC WORK OF ART!!! BRILLIANT YET SHOCKING! 5 stars
9/19/99 Popa Chulo an extremly boring intro. the ruusian roulette is well worth it, though. 4 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: **** (out of ****) Category: "Excellent" 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg This is an amazing film. SEE IT. Moves me every time. Cimino's only good movie. 5 stars
6/24/99 Brad K. One of the best films ever, Walken and DeNiro are brilliant. 5 stars
6/15/99 Dylan De Niro's (& Walken's) finest momemnt. 5 stars
6/10/99 Homer J. Simpson I realy liked this movie,it was well acted plus the vietnam scenes were scary 5 stars
4/09/99 Oli This is one of the greatest films ever, Cimino is a geinius. 5 stars
1/12/99 demon_shredder This is one of the best flicks I have ever seen. DeNiro rules! 5 stars
11/28/98 little jerry The Ist russian roulette scene is one of the all time greats but film is pretty maudlin. 4 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Brilliant! 5 stars
11/26/98 Vick Di Brecci Much of this grandiloquent picture that doesn't wear well with me, but great middle section 4 stars
11/24/98 Silent Rob Powerful tale, about a fractured nation, as seen from a small steel-mill town. Cast heaven! 5 stars
11/23/98 Lord Of The Dunce An eery classic. Cimino knew how to direct. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Feb-1979 (R)
  DVD: 06-Sep-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jul-1979 (R)




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