milla jovovich, tony jaa

Review: Monster Hunter Delivers on Its Promise of Big Dumb Fun

3/5 Felyne chefs.

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There are two kinds of people in the world: those who enjoy watching Milla Jovovich kick the crap out of supernatural beasties and those who don’t. If you already know which one you are, then you know exactly how you’ll receive her latest film, Monster Hunter. The film, based on the popular Capcom video game, reunites Jovovich with her husband/director Paul W.S. Anderson. The duo previously made 6 films in the Resident Evil franchise, offering up stylish and schlocky B-movie delights over the course of nearly two decades.

Luckily for me, as a connoisseur of Resident Evil and the Jovovich/Anderson oeuvre, I was primed for Monster Hunter, and the film not only met but exceeded my wildest expectations.

Monster Hunter stars Jovovich as Natalie Artemis, an Army Ranger leading her troop (T.I., Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, and more) through a hostile desert. The team finds themselves caught in an electrical sand storm which opens up a portal to another dimension, where dinosaur-sized monsters rule.

Separated from her crew, Artemis teams up with native resident The Hunter (Thai martial artist and Ong Bak star Tony Jaa), who has spent his life surviving the monster-filled world thanks to quick thinking and ginormous swords. If you’re looking for more plot than that, you’re out of luck, as the film spends nearly its entire run-time with Jaa and Jovovich hunting monsters.

And the monster fighting? Well, it kicks ass. the creature effects are dazzling and inventive, the fights are dynamic, and everyone is having a blast. The film spends most of its time as a two-hander between Jovovich and Jaa, who struggle to communicate (The Hunter doesn’t speak English) but find common ground and respect as fellow warriors. The two have an easy chemistry together, anchored by Jovovich’s eminently watchable screen presence and Jaa’s charisma.

Video game movies often get a bad rap, and rightfully so, as the good ones are few and far between. But Monster Hunter knows exactly what it is and what its audience wants, and delivers in spades. While the Resident Evil franchise would often get bogged down in overly complicated and nonsensical plots, Monster Hunter keeps it simple.

And after six Resident Evil films set in dark rainy cities or dank industrial buildings, Monster Hunter enjoys a wide open desert landscape filled with critters and characters from the game, including a surly Felyne chef and Ron Perlman as the Admiral, who steers a pirate ship through sandy seas. Perlman’s wig alone is its own character, worthy of its own spinoff.

There’s comfort to be found in a film that doesn’t put on airs or try to elevate the material. Sometimes you need a rollicking action film that allows you to turn off your brain and enjoy solid fight scenes, horrific monsters, and Milla Jovovich literally slaying dragons. The film’s ending is poised for a sequel, but given its Chinese controversy and pandemic box office struggle, it’s unclear how successful the film will turn out to be. But if Anderson and Jovovich and Jaa want to crank out five more of these, I will be first in line for the franchise.

What can I say? Give me Milla Jovovich shooting things in slow motion, and I’m a happy camper.

Monster Hunter is playing in theaters now. SVOD dates have yet to be announced but are expected soon.

(featured image: Coco Van Oppens Photography)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.