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Summer is Hollywood's blockbuster season filled mostly with big-budget spectacles and action comedies. But sometimes, more serious pictures slip into the mix. That's the case with the foreign language film starring Mads Mikkelsen who is probably best known in this country as TV's Hannibal Lecter. In "The Hunt," a social drama from Denmark, he plays what critic Bob Mondello says is a markedly different role.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Lukas works in a Danish kindergarten. And from the moment you see him there, it's clear he's in the right place.

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MONDELLO: When the kids look at him, they see a great, big toy, especially 5-year old Klara, the lonely daughter of Lukas' best friend. Klara's folks fight a lot, and her teenage brother is too busy looking at dirty pictures with his buddies to pay her much attention. Lukas, though, treats her kindly.

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MONDELLO: And she's developed a little crush. She spends an afternoon making him a paper heart with glitter and is hurt when he gives it back suggesting she give it to a boy her age. So she says something after school quietly, not realizing what it means, that she heard her brother say when he was looking at dirty pictures. And she says it about Lukas. And the school's head mistress, erring on the side of caution, tells Lukas to take a few days off.

The title "The Hunt" is a play on words. There are characters who have rifles and go hunting. But for director Thomas Vinterberg, "The Hunt" is about a witch hunt, an accusation of impropriety that takes on a life of its own, shattering bonds of trust in a close-knit community. The director makes clear that everyone means well: the head mistress, protective of her students, the parents trying to shield children from things they shouldn't know about, the investigators asking questions carefully...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HUNT")

MONDELLO: ...trying to see their way through ambiguous answers.

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MONDELLO: But they're talking to and about a 5-year-old. When someone asks Klara if she's uncomfortable because she doesn't like what Lukas did to her, she nods yes. And you realize what the investigator doesn't, that what Lukas did that she didn't like was return her paper heart.

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MONDELLO: Mads Mikkelsen, who goes through the movie in a sort of a defensive crouch, is playing intriguingly against his own image as Lukas, whether you know him as TV's Hannibal Lecter and a 007 villain or as what Danish audiences have repeatedly voted him, the sexiest romantic lead in Denmark. He's playing neither of those extremes here, just a man trying to brave the hysteria of "The Hunt" as he realizes everyone around him smells blood. I'm Bob Mondello.

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