Plot: Sean Mercer (John Wayne) and his buddies run a wild game capture service, which takes & fills orders for zoos in need of animals. The tasks can be often be dangerous, but the team continues on and on their last mission, Little Wolf (Bruce Cabot) was gored by a rhino. It seems rhinos always causes these guys problems, as they always fail on those tasks and end up far worse for the wear, for sure. As if the danger of the wilds wasn’t enough, now a photographer named Anna (Elsa Martinelli) has arrived and of course, John wants to send her right back out again. But she is allowed to stay thanks to her employer’s bankroll, so she comes along on the hunts and documents the event that happen. But as time passes and the group becomes closer and closer, what will become of our band of workers?
Entertainment Value: This is an odd one, as you don’t often see John Wayne chase zebras and giraffes, but I think Hatari is a solid watch. The narrative is a loose one and more or less just takes us inside the group of friends, then mixes in a romance to spice things up a little. But with an almost three hour duration, Hatari feels stretched super thin and there are some rather slow, even dull stretches, which the movie tries to balance out with all the wildlife chases. Hatari is a beautiful experience at times, with lush landscapes and a menagerie of animal performers on showcase, so the atmosphere here is impressive. But as I said, the bloated run time is a concern and the story just can’t support the entire run time. So we have the nature scenes, which are a highlight, as well as bursts of comedic elements, as the characters wind each other up and some light romance blends in. The cast has good chemistry and that goes a long way, but a leaner run time might have worked wonders, taking a passable, but slow movie and making it a tighter, more effective picture. I still enjoyed the movie however, especially the scenes that just allow the skilled cast to banter with each other, so this is recommended, with John Wayne fans as the most likely interested parties.
This movie has some impressive talent involved, with Howard Hawks in the director’s chair and John Wayne in the lead role. This might not seem like Wayne’s typical kind of role, but he is still the rugged, tough guy in Hatari, he just softens his approach a little to suit the material. So he is still hard edged at times, but he kind of sends himself up a little at times too, being game for the comedic moments. He even gives us some physical, slapstick humor in a few scenes, which is fun to see. His banter with the rest of the crew is natural and the group chemistry is effective, with an ease in the conversations that elevates the material. His bluster returns for the romantic elements, though again, he softens when it counts. Red Buttons is also fun to watch in a prominent role, able to earn some laughs and give Wayne some friendly ribbing at times. The two have great chemistry and the back and forth exchanges are well done. The cast also includes Elsa Martinelli, Bruce Cabot, and Hardy Kruger.