Plot: Buck Ferguson (Josh Brolin) is a man who loves to hunt, he has even made a career of being an outdoorsman. He has found some success as the host of a series of hunting themed videos, with his faithful camerman Don (Danny McBride) documenting his various trophies and adventures. Buck prides himself on bringing not just the hunts to his viewers, but a more personal side to his videos, which he hopes to continue with his next video, his son’s first hunt. He plans the trip down the most minor detail, how to capture each crucial scene and most importantly, he wants to make sure his son’s first deer kill is a memorable moment. As the three head into the woods to craft this special video, will things go as Buck has planned or will this prove to be his most unpredictable hunt ever?
Entertainment Value: This one was based in part on an actual hunting video of the same name, which explored the father/son dynamic, though this film is of course a much more outlandish, over the top take on the premise. Jody Hill has made a career out of stories about oblivious, arrogant men, with such projects as Eastbound and Down and Observe and Report in his resume, so a character like Buck is well within his creative wheelhouse. While Buck seems to mean well at times, he is selfish even in how he cares about others, as he just sees his son as an extension of his legacy and treats his friend like an indentured servant. Buck is a more grounded character than Kenny Powers for example, but the same threads are woven through both stories, so fans of Hill’s prior work should find a lot to like here. I don’t think it comes together as well as the others, with some pacing issues and more inconsistent humor, but it does have some fun parts and good performances. I appreciated the more earnest approach here, but I wish the movie was more fun to watch and let the characters loose a little more, as there seems to be a lot of potential in this one.
The main reason this movie works as well as it does is Josh Brolin, who really nails the role of Buck and turns him into a memorable character. He is able to bring across those moments of good intentions, laced with selfishness, which create some awkward and sometimes hilarious situations. Buck is convinced he is a perfect father and a put upon man, a concept Brolin embodies with his performance and does so in a believable, grounded fashion. The interactions between Buck and Jaden are some of the best in the movie, as Buck is so oblivious, but remains ever certain that he knows what is going on in his son’s life, even when confronted with the opposite. Brolin anchors the movie well and is the main reason to seek this one out. Danny McBride has a prominent role here as Don, who Buck sees as his subordinate and McBride plays the role well, sprinkled with his usual random, offbeat sense of humor. Don and Buck make an interesting pair and I wish more time was spent on that relationship, as Montana Jordan is rather bland as Buck’s son Jaden. The cast also includes Carrie Coon and Scott McNairy, who play Buck’s ex and her new boyfriend.