The Hunter is a 1980 American thriller film based on the exploits of real-life bounty hunter Ralph "Papa" Thorson. The film is notable for being Steve McQueen's final acting role before his death in November of that year.
There's a lot going on in the life of bounty hunter Ralph "Papa" Thorson, who has apprehended more than 5,000 criminals and bail jumpers.
At home in Los Angeles, Thorson is an old-fashioned guy who has a love of antiques and classical music, drives a 1950s convertible and keeps an antique gasoline pump in his house. His schoolteacher girlfriend Dotty is pregnant and would like "Papa" to be there for her when the baby is born, but his work continually keeps him on the road.
Thorson chases down fugitives in Illinois, Nebraska and Texas, as he himself is pursued by Rocco Mason, a psychotic killer who was one of Thorson's former convicts and who also threatens and pursues Dotty as well. He brings back the fugitive Tommy Price but vouches for him, Tommy eventually becoming one of the many acquaintances who hang out at Papa's house.
Bail bondsman Blumenthal sends him out after a dangerous punk whose kinfolk include Sheriff Strong, a lawman who warns Thorson not to get involved. Papa ignores him and ends up in a violent fight with the fugitive, who is so huge, even a Taser barely stops him.
Thorson's adventures continue in a cornfield, where men in a tractor try to mow him down, and in a circular parking structure in Chicago, where the car Papa is pursuing plunges several stories off the parking garage in Marina City into the Chicago River after leading Thorson on a chase through Chicago atop a fast-moving train.
Meanwhile, back home, Rocco Mason has begun terrorizing Dotty at her school, daring Thorson to come after him. Thorson comes to her rescue but immediately needs to rush Dotty to the hospital. Exhausted, he gets through the day just in time to hold his new baby.
- Steve McQueen as Ralph 'Papa' Thorson
- Eli Wallach as Ritchie Blumenthal
- Kathryn Harrold as Dotty
- LeVar Burton as Tommy Price
- Ben Johnson as Sheriff Strong
- Richard Venture as Police Captain Spota
- Tracey Walter as Rocco Mason
- Thomas Rosales Jr. as Bernardo (as Tom Rosales)
- Teddy Wilson as Winston Blue (as Theodore Wilson)
- Ray Bickel as Luke Branch
- Bobby Bass as Matthew Branch
- Karl Schueneman as Billie Joe
- Margaret Mary O'Hara as Child on Subway (as Margaret O'Hara)
- James Spinks as Angry Car Owner
- Frank Delfino as Poker Player
- Ralph Thorson cameo as bartender
The opening scenes were filmed in Kankakee County, IL. The capture of Tommy Price (LeVar Burton) in Herscher and payphone scenes with Papa Thorson (Steve McQueen) talking to Sheriff Strong (Ben Johnson) were filmed in Bonfield. The classic riverhouse explosion early in the picture was filmed on the Kankakee River near Aroma Park. The structure was built for the film and then destroyed.
The airport scene where Papa picks up the Trans Am was filmed at the Greater Kankakee airport. Historic downtown Lemont was used for the scene where Steve McQueen performs a burnout in front of the police officer. Also, the current public works building across from the post office was used as the police station and jail. The cornfield chase scenes were filmed on a feed corn farm that shared property with the Lithuanian World Center and is now the site of a current residential development.
A portion of the film was shot in Old Town, Chicago, on the El. Scenes involving Papa chasing his quarry in a parking garage were shot at Marina City. The stunt with the fleeing suspect driving off the Marina City garage and plunging into the Chicago River was recreated in 2006 for a commercial for Allstate Insurance.
The Hunter received mixed reviews among critics, and currently holds a 55% rating and an average of 5.2/10 at Rotten Tomatoes.