Susan Granger’s review of “The Hunter’s Prayer” (Lionsgate/Saban Films)
When her wealthy parents are murdered in their suburban New York, home, teenage Ella Hatto (Odeya Rush) is thousands of miles away at a posh Swiss boarding school, sneaking out to a trendy nightclub with her boyfriend Sergio, unaware that she’s next on the assassin’s hit list.
But he’s no ordinary killer. Conflicted, conscience-stricken Stephen Lucas (Sam Worthington) has gone rogue. Suffering from PTSD and addicted to heroin, he’s filled with regrets over his military past. So Stephen decides not only to spare Ella’s life but also to track down the other gunmen who have been hired to kill her.
Posing as a bodyguard sent by her family, he explains that there’s a contract out on her as punishment for her father’s financial treachery.
As they travel across Europe, eluding a shadowy so-called friend (Veronica Echegui) and corrupt FBI agent (Amy Landecker), Stephen and Ella get to know one another, establishing an unlikely relationship that’s reminiscent of Luc Besson’s subversive “Leon: The Professional.”
“How do you do it?” Ella inquires. “Kill people.”
By the time they reach the imposing 19th century Yorkshire estate that belongs to malevolent Richard Addison (Allen Leech) and serves as a lavish front for his illegal narcotics distribution, they’ve become a team.
Working from a far-fetched, thinly sketched script by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, based on a 2004 novel “For the Dogs” by Kevin Wignall, resourceful director Jonathan Mostow (“U-571,” “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” “Breakdown”) relies on action, rather than exposition and dialogue, to propel this effective thriller. As a result, brawling fight scenes, careening car-chases and brutal shootouts abound.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Hunter’s Prayer” is a gritty, fast-paced 6, best suited for video-viewing.