Heart of the Hunter, Great visuals and action, generic but step in the right direction

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Heart of the Hunter is a good film, with solid direction, sound design, fantastic action set pieces, and really good cinematography. PHOTO | POOL

The production quality of films coming out of Africa is on an upward trajectory, but I think we can all agree that when it comes to action thrillers, there remains considerable ground to cover compared to global standards.

So far, I have seen two movies that are pushing the envelope in that genre. One is Itifaki, a Kenyan short action thriller originally conceived as a proof of concept, which recently garnered a Kalasha Award for Best Short Movie. Even with a tight budget, they were able to create a really good product with impressive action set pieces within a tightly paced yet engaging story, complemented by great performances and direction. The other film is what we're going to be looking at today.

Heart of the Hunter

Heart of the Hunter is a 2024 South African Action thriller adapted from the book of the same name by South African novelist and screenwriter, Deon Meyer. Directed by Mandlakayise W. Dube, the film features a stellar cast including Bonko Khoza, Connie Ferguson, Masasa Mbangeni, Sisanda Henna and Tim Theron.


A retired assassin is pulled back into action when his friend uncovers a dangerous conspiracy at the heart of the South African government.

What makes this movie unique?

Two things

1. The action choreography in this film is exceptional. While it carries traces of the Bourne identity DNA, what sets it apart is its coherence. Unlike the erratic editing often associated with the Bourne franchise, the action sequences here are fluid and easy to follow. The combination of good cinematography and sound design immerses the audience, making every punch, slash, and stab palpable.

Impressive stunts, thanks to meticulous blocking, are enhanced by the actors' convincing performances, effectively conveying the intensity of these moments. Particularly notable are the thrilling moments involving helicopters, which lead me to the next point.

2. The cinematography stands out in this film as truly exceptional. While it does include captivating helicopter scenes, framed against beautiful landscapes, it's the meticulous work of the location scout, particularly in the second and third acts, that truly shines. The film features impressive wide shots, showcasing either the urban skyline or the majestic countryside mountains. These scenes, paired with deliberate camera movements, create visually stunning moments throughout the movie.

The storyboard and animatic artist must have had fun working on some scenes and a look at the “behind the scenes” of the preproduction of the film would be welcomed

An honourable mention goes to the villain played by Sisanda Henna, whose occasional one-dimensional and cartoonish portrayal surprisingly led to a great performance. It was evident that the actor thoroughly enjoyed embodying the character.


Muzzle flashes, perhaps due to inadequate tracking and blending, occasionally appear overlaid, which may distract some viewers, although most may not notice. As a genre film, the story and plot adhere to typical expectations, presenting a fairly average narrative. The performances, particularly from the “personnel behind the Screens”, are average at best.


This is a good film, with solid direction, sound design, fantastic action set pieces, and really good cinematography. There are good performances scattered throughout. However, it might be heavy on exposition during the second act, and the story generally doesn't offer anything particularly new. Nonetheless, this doesn't detract from the fact that it's one of the best action movies on the continent.

That said, I can't wait to see what Giza Visuals has in store for us about Itifak. The interesting thing is that Heart of the Hunter and Itifaki share many similarities. While "Itifaki" is a short film (the trailer is available on YouTube), with different stories, the protagonists' arcs are almost identical, and the action in "Itifaki" shows great promise. So yes, Giza Visuals, we are eagerly awaiting the full film.

X: @stanslausmanthi

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