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Why is Heart of the Hunter so popular on Netflix right now? And is it worth watching?

The cast of Heart of the Hunter.
Netflix

The Netflix algorithm is famously unpredictable, even by Netflix itself. How else can an unheralded South African action thriller like Heart of the Hunter come out swinging as one of the most popular movies on Netflix? It’s not just landing in the top 10; Heart of the Hunter is near the top of the list. That’s an impressive achievement for any movie.

Heart of the Hunter‘s newfound popularity is more than just a fluke. Netflix subscribers from around the world have discovered that this film they’ve never seen before is outshining a lot of recent entries in the action genre. There are parts of Heart of the Hunter that may seem derivative of John Wick or other films that came before it, but this movie has its own flavor and a great action hero at the heart of the story. Keep reading, and we’ll share five reasons to watch Heart of the Hunter on Netflix.

Bonko Khoza is an action star in the making

Bonko Khoza in Heart of the Hunter.
Netflix

Bonko Khoza is not entirely unknown in the U.S. since he appeared in the 2016 remake of Roots and in 2022’s The Woman King. Khoza has also worked extensively in South African cinema and television. But his role as Zuko Khumalo in Heart of the Hunter could be the part that opens more doors in Hollywood. Zuko is a pretty standard action hero in the John Wick mold who has turned away from his life as an assassin. But Khoza gives Zuko an everyman quality that makes it easy to root for his happiness.

However, the most important aspect of Khoza’s performance is that Zuko feels credible in his action scenes. He’s formidable when fighting for his life and believably in jeopardy when things go sideways. While there’s always room for seemingly indestructible action heroes, it’s the ones who have vulnerabilities that seem the most human. Khoza is so good at that part that he really could start breaking out more in American action films.

Zuko’s makeshift family is heartwarming

Masasa Mbangeni and Bonko Khoza in Heart of the Hunter.
Netflix

The key to any conflicted action hero is giving them something worth fighting for. In this film, Zuko has found happiness with a woman named Malime (Masasa Mbangeni) and her son, Pakamile (Boleng Mogotsi). And it’s easy to tell that Zuko absolutely loves both of them. He wants to marry Malime and be a real father to Pakamile. He’s even mastered the art of gently guiding Pakamile to focus on his studies.

Unfortunately for Zuko, domestic bliss was never in the cards once he’s forced back into the life of an assassin. But we get to see what’s at stake for Zuko from the very beginning and what he may lose when he’s in the crosshairs of a powerful man.

Sisanda Henna plays a villain you’ll love to hate

Sisanda Henna in Heart of the Hunter.
Netflix

Daza Mtima (Sisanda Henna) is not as well-defined as Zuko, but any great action movie needs a bad guy, and this one is as evil as they come. Mtima barely even tries to hide how corrupt he is while running for President, and he’s got a ruthless streak when anyone stands between him and his ambitions.

Zuko would have preferred to remain on the sidelines of this battle, but his old friend and ex-handler, Johnny Klein (Peter Butler), turns to Zuko to help save their country from Mtima’s reign. That’s going to come at a cost for Zuko, but the movie gives fans a villain who deserves everything that’s coming to him. What more could we ask for?

Heart of the Hunter’s supporting cast adds some complexity

Deon Coetzee in Heart of the Hunter.
Netflix

Not everything in this movie works perfectly, but it’s commendable that the story doesn’t just present Zuko as the only man standing in Mtima’s way. Journalists Mike Bressler (Deon Coetzee) and Allison Baloyi (Wanda Banda) put their reputations and lives on the line to expose Mtima’s illegal and immoral actions. And those acts of bravery have cost Mike everything.

Mike tried to do things above the board to stop Mtima. And in some ways, he’s one of the more heroic characters for even making the attempt. Now, having failed to slow down Mtima’s agenda on his own, Mike is more inclined to work with Johnny and risk greater exposure. That leads back to Zuko’s side of the story, and they’re ultimately fighting on the same side.

Heart of the Hunter has great action

Bonko Khoza in Heart of the Hunter.
Netflix

The biggest attraction for Heart of the Hunter is the action. It’s not a perfect film by any means, and it’s not groundbreaking. But director Mandla Dube and his team really have a knack for making the action compelling and believable. This could turn out to be Dube’s calling card in Hollywood as well because the fights are fun to watch and exciting. Dube seems to know just how to capture the dance of violence on film.

Another thing that purists may enjoy is that Dube leans on practical effects rather than fake-looking CGI. That goes a long way toward making the explosive confrontations more believable and fun to look at. This movie repackages everything that other action films did before it while offering some fresh touches with its hero and setting. In other words, it’s a great choice for your next movie night when you’re looking for some action.

Watch Heart of the Hunter on Netflix.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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