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White Hunter Black Heart
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Reviews & Ratings for
White Hunter Black Heart More at IMDbPro »

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31 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

One of Clint Eastwood's most unjustly-neglected movies

8/10
Author: gottogorunning from United States
16 August 2005

One of Clint Eastwood's most unjustly-neglected movies... he directed and stars as a cranky, strong-willed movie director (he's actually playing the real-life John Huston, though his character is called "Wilson" in the movie... and the book it was based on). In Africa to direct an action-comedy ("The African Queen" in real life) Wilson throws the project into turmoil when he suddenly becomes obsessed with hunting and killing an elephant. "It's not a crime... it's bigger than that... it's a SIN," he says by way of justification. It takes a while to get used to Clint trying to play John Huston... trying to talk in a different style of voice than we're used to hearing... but the dialog and story are so compelling that you forget that Clint really is the wrong guy for this role. And yet, by the time the movie reaches it's devastating final line... Clint has made the character his own. As far as Clint's directing work goes... I would rank this film right after "Unforgiven"!

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28 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Eastwood plays Huston

7/10
Author: Reb9 from Houston
10 June 1999

This film is based on a book by Peter Viertel who worked with Huston on a number of projects. He shares writing credit with Huston on We Were Strangers. The book and film give us Viertel's version of what it was like to work with the great John Huston on The African Queen. Viertel finally bailed out and Huston and cast somehow managed to create a masterpiece. Eastwood plays the fictional representation of Huston to the hilt, creating one of his most memorable roles. This is a film that you have to work at. If you know a little of the history, though, it is well worth seeing.

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21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Too bad about the beginning of the movie

7/10
Author: Philip Van der Veken from Tessenderlo, Belgium
29 July 2005

I must admit that Clint Eastwood was the main reason why I watched this movie. I'm already quite familiar with his work as an actor and as a director - even though I still haven't seen his biggest success "Million Dollar Baby" yet - and overall I can enjoy his work. Does that mean that I love all his movies? No, certainly not, but most of the time, he's the one who saves the movie, even when it isn't all that good. Knowing that he directed this movie and played a major role in it, only made it more interesting for me.

"White Hunter Black Heart" shows how the world famous movie director John Huston is planning on making a trip to Africa, where he will shoot his next movie. But despite his reputation of being a good director, he is also a very difficult man to work with. He doesn't want to make any concessions towards the producers and to make things worse he is also more interested in shooting the biggest elephant possible than shooting his movie and there is nothing or no-one who can bring him to other ideas...

Overall this is a good movie, although I must say that the beginning didn't do it for me. At first I had the feeling that the characters weren't all that real. They felt too much like caricatures, almost making this movie feel like a comedy, which it certainly isn't. That's also the reason why I wasn't exactly thinking about giving this movie a very high rating. But I always make that final decision at the end of the movie and I admit that the end of the movie was a lot better than the beginning. Not only was it very clear that John Wilson felt himself more at ease in Africa than in England, his reactions after the hunt also showed that this wasn't yet another typical type of quiet tough guy without any human emotions that Clint Eastwood plays so often. I really appreciated that in this movie. What I also liked was the entire 'behind the scenes of a classic movie' idea. OK, if you regularly buy a DVD, then you know from the extra's how a movie is shot. But that's how it is done today with all the modern techniques, camera's, lighting equipment. They didn't have all that in the fifties and it's nice to see how it was done back then.

Overall this is an enjoyable movie that offers some good acting and an interesting story. If the beginning had been more believable, this might well have become one of my all-time favorites. Now I give it a rating in between 7/10 and 7.5/10.

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22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Eastwood is good (as usual) in an uneven film

Author: bigsleepj from Captain Nemo's Submarine
7 September 2000

White Hunter, Black Heart both left me confused as well as breathless. The movie, that I saw earlier this year on television, struck me as deep yet peculiar. Clint Eastwood, in one of his most memorable roles ever, John Wilson, goes out to shoot an elephant while what he really should be doing is shoot a Hollywood movie in the 1950s.

The only person on the crew who shares his view and almost understand him is Pete Verril (Jeff Fahey), a writer brought on to improve the script. Although Pete supports Wilson, Pete realizes that the hunt of an elephant is more than just an adventure for Wilson, but an obsession. Wilson is willing to compromise the entire crew's careers and futures just to commit "the only legal sin."

The movie has certain themes, including conservation, obsession and movie-making theories. The themes aren't explored too well, which explains the muddled ending. But still this is an enjoyable film.

Based on a novel by Peter Viertel, based on his experiences while filming the African Queen, the film is either going to grip you from the start, or bore you to death. You'll ever like it or forget it. The ending takes a little figuring out (especially at mentioning the title), but people who like movies about film making and Africa should like this.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Underrated Classic... Clint Eastwood plays John Huston!

8/10
Author: hokeybutt from Milwaukee, Wisconsin
23 June 2004

(4 outta 5 stars)

One of Clint Eastwood's most unjustly-neglected movies... he directed and stars as a cranky, strong-willed movie director (he's actually playing the real-life John Huston, though his character is called "Wilson" in the movie... and the book it was based on). In Africa to direct an action-comedy ("The African Queen" in real life) Wilson throws the project into turmoil when he suddenly becomes obsessed with hunting and killing an elephant. "It's not a crime... it's bigger than that... it's a SIN," he says by way of justification. It takes a while to get used to Clint trying to play John Huston... trying to talk in a different style of voice than we're used to hearing... but the dialogue and story are so compelling that you forget that Clint really is the wrong guy for this role. And yet, by the time the movie reaches it's devastating final line... Clint has made the character his own. As far as Clint's directing work goes... I would rank this film right after "Unforgiven"... yes, even better than "Mystic River"!

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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

creator's block

6/10
Author: macataque from United States
29 December 2004

On one level, this film is a failure: It's a fictionalized knock-off of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the making of "The African Queen" with Bogart & Hepburn directed by John Huston. This surface level is not so enthralling. On a second level, the level I believe the artists really wanted to put across, it isn't so enthralling either. Nevertheless, they are to be commended for attempting something unusual: An effort to show the creative process -- and the fears lurking within barring the fruition of art, often at great costs to health and personal relationships. In ranking Eastwood's films, this film falls below "Unforgiven", "Million Dollar Baby", "Bird" or "The Bridges of Madison County", but the subtext here raises its status. A must-see for the serious artist or wannabe.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

could have been a fascinating study of Hollywood hubris

5/10
Author: Michael Neumann from United States
14 January 2011

Clint Eastwood's caricature of legendary moviemaker John Huston marked a change of pace at the time from the Malpaso Man's usual shoot-'em-ups. But because this semi-fictional account of Huston's elephant safari during the filming of 'The African Queen' is so thinly disguised, all the coy name changes (Eastwood is "John Wilson") and character imitations seem pointless. The actor-director mimics Huston's distinctive voice and mannerisms with refreshing, unflattering candor, but is too relaxed to accurately capture the older filmmaker's irresponsible iconoclasm (when faced with a charging wild elephant one almost expects him to mutter, "...go ahead, jumbo, make my day.") It could have been a fascinating character study of silver screen illusions and obsessions, but too much of the film is marred by Eastwood's pedestrian direction (POV shots from a monkey?) and by Pete Viertel's self-promoting autobiographical screenplay, presenting himself (as 'The African Queen' co-writer "Pete Verrill") in a too transparently flattering portrait: honest, handsome, and (of course) a "brilliant" artist.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

One of the most intellectual of Eastwood films.

8/10
Author: psagray from Spain
6 May 2011

Clint Eastwood stars in, directed and produced this original adventure film that alternates with great skill and unique perspective, a recreation of the early stages of the filming of "The African Queen" and the obsession of its director to hunt an elephant tusks in the middle Savannah portentous African. A self-destructive portrait of the protagonist John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) is but a facade for John Huston's' The African Queen. "

It is not, strictly speaking, the typical vision of cinema through film but, of course, mishaps on the set and the verbal battles between "John Wilson" (Clint Eastwood), a veteran filmmaker back around, and team members have no waste.

It is an extraordinary building of character inspired by John Huston modelling Eastwood. Nobody is better than a great actor-turned-best director, if possible, to become one of the greatest American filmmakers of personality and character. The privileges of this crafty, eccentric, bully, a womanizer and "bon vivant" found in Houston and the interpretation of Eastwood everything you need to display the charisma and genius of this character.

"John Wilson" does not fight with the producer of Hollywood: he has transcended the world of cinema, to begin a more spiritual struggle and 'black heart', "hunt the elephant with large tusks". This is the leitmotiv of the film will cause an evolution of the more interesting actor narrated with high performance filled with silences, glances, gestures, It's resulting in a film with acting and directing at the height of his best work.

The music goes perfectly, the photography is darker than expected for a story set in Africa and actor Eastwood surprisingly registration change to get into the character of John Huston.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Eastwood's first autumnal masterpiece.

9/10
Author: FilmSnobby from San Diego
3 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now that Clint Eastwood has deservedly won Best Director and Best Picture for 2004's *Million Dollar Baby*, and now that the rest of America's critics have caught up with those of us who have been continually asserting that Eastwood is this country's best living director, one hopes that the curious or just plain inspired will take a look at the man's impressive back-catalog. Treasures await.

Like, for example, 1990's *White Hunter Black Heart*. If his previous film, *Bird*, had announced new auterist ambitions, then this movie not only certified them, but threw everyone for a loop as well. It was perhaps a bit too soon for people to accept Eastwood in a "character" role, playing, in fact, a loose version of director John Huston. Some people may still have trouble with this. The obvious solution is to recognize that the movie is ultimately about Clint Eastwood rather than John Huston. The artistic concerns put on display here -- the difficulty of a "living legend" to live down his own hype and continue to be artistically relevant; the addiction to machismo that tends toward self-destruction; the realization of the relative insignificance of even an "important" person in the context of a wide world; the destructiveness of violence within any context -- have bedeviled Eastwood every bit as much as they bedeviled Huston. Perhaps more so, because after a lifetime of portraying gunslinging outlaws, followed by a stretch as a bloodthirsty, reactionary "enforcer" of the law, Eastwood's resume of on-screen machismo and mindless violence had a hell of a lot more to answer for. If the best films he has directed in the Nineties and in the new millennium are often about, in one way or another, atoning for his own legend as a performer, then *White Hunter Black Heart* is the opening salvo. Call it *Unforgiven: The Prequel*.

Those who still quibble about Eastwood's performance here should finally consider that the story is based on screenwriter Peter Viertel's NOVEL, in which the famous director is called "John Wilson". This bald technicality frees Eastwood from worrying about whether or not he's mimicking John Huston correctly. (Hell, if it didn't worry Viertel as a writer, why should Eastwood worry about it as an actor or director?) In any case, Eastwood eases into the role as the movie wears on: by the end of the picture, when he's faced with his own folly after a devastating loss of a new friend, the self-abnegating call for "action!" on the set is a tremendous moment, fraught with nihilistic courage. Eastwood surprises us by how much he grows into the role -- we believe that last moment. And we have to, because that final sequence is the grand culmination of what the movie has been about all along: one man's limitations driven home to him in spades. It's not enough to be a wise and witty man who KNOWS what those limitations are; he must FEEL them.

The ambiguities of the movie's title are also striking. "White hunter, black heart." What does it mean? Just before the great climax, a fellow "white hunter", one of Wilson's safari guides, interprets a lamenting chant from the aboriginals after they learn the news that a respected local man has died (a man whose death Wilson just might be ultimately responsible for). "White hunter, black heart," the fellow says to Wilson. Twice. In ominous tones. The easy interpretation is that Wilson is essentially a bad man. "Shooting an elephant isn't a crime," he has earlier explained to the disgusted Viertel character, "it's a SIN." But if the Africans aren't above killing elephants, why should Wilson be? Perhaps the phrase indicates that the locals consider this white man to be spiritually kin not just to them, but to their fallen hero as well. Perhaps this inherent kinship gives Wilson the power to walk over to the director's chair and commence directing the enjoyable nonsense called *The African Queen*. Perhaps such a movie required an African King to direct it: white hunter, black heart.

9 stars out of 10.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A Great character study

9/10
Author: cwillis_m from OH.
23 January 2004

"White Hunter, Black Heart" is very much a character driven film. The plot is easy to give a summery of: a movie director named John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) wants to shoot a film in Africa so he can hunt down an elephant.

The very first time I saw this movie, my first impression of Eastwood's performance was that it seem a little odd. I wasn't sure what he was doing there. But as the film went on, I realized that he was lost in his performance. The performance seems to take over at some point. I think it's a great performance from Eastwood, and as a director, it's another strong film from him. With each viewing of this film, I seem to like it even more. My rating: 9/10

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