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Review: HUNTING EMMA (2017)

Earlier this year, the French thriller REVENGE made waves with its story of a rape victim being hunted by her attackers in the Moroccan desert. In HUNTING EMMA (JAGVELD in its native South Africa) the stakes are a little different. It’s the fact she’s seen the gang killing a policeman that has them hunting her across the Karoo Desert. Can lightning strike twice?

On her way out to see her father after a fight with her boyfriend, Emma (Leandie du Randt) witnesses a gang of drug smugglers killing a cop. Led by the psychopathic Bosman (Neels van Jaarsveld) they intend for her to meet a similar fate. But she manages to escape, and the hunt is on.

There are six of them and only one of her. But what they don’t know is her father is a special force veteran, and he taught his girl well. The odds may not be as one-sided as they appear.


HUNTING EMMA is a fairly standard thriller that’s elevated by its characters. Adapted from his own novel by Deon Meyer, there’s a bit more depth to them than we usually see in a film like this. Emma is well versed in violence, but is a pacifist who needs to be forced to use that training. That inner conflict builds during the first part of the film as she tries to simply escape. But we know it’s not going to be that easy.

While his scenes provide a bit too much on the nose exposition, her father Jacques (Tertius Meintjes) is a nice twist on the tough old man cliché. His grin when he finds the body of one of the gang is the perfect reaction.


The gang itself is a mix of a psychopath, his two hardened henchmen and three idiots looking to make fast money. The conflict and interplay between them add to the tension. More than once they seem on the brink of turning on each other.

The debut film for director Byron Davis, HUNTING EMMA is a promising debut. And like THE LULLABY, the other South African film I recently reviewed, it has me wanting to see what else their film industry has to offer.

HUNTING EMMA is available on digital and streaming platforms via Red Hound Films.

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