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What Cruel Mind Is Behind 'The Revenant?' A BigLaw Partner's

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 08, 2016 12:59 PM

If you're looking for a new movie to check out and you want to see Leonardo DiCaprio get mauled by a grizzly bear, might we suggest The Revenant? The new movie tells the tale of legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass, played by DiCaprio, who literally rises from his grave after his hunting team leaves him for dead. From that point on, the Revenant is focused on one thing: revenge. It's a harsh, beautiful film about the American West and the consuming desire for revenge.

Who came up with this tale of desolation and retribution in the cruel, unforgiving wilderness? A BigLaw partner, of course.

This Is Not Bambi

It makes sense that The Revenant would come from a certain type of lawyer. Its worldview is part Hobbesian pessimism about human character and part Kantian retributivism.

Start with Thomas Hobbes's view that life outside of society is a "war of all against all "filled with the "continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Throw in a bit of Emmanuel Kant's belief that, even if all of society has dissolved, "the last murderer lying in prison ought to be executed." Mix them together and you have The Revenant.

The Man Behind 'The Revenant'

But enough about moral philosophy, The Revenant tells the tale of an actual man, Hugh Glass, though it tells it loosely. Glass was a real trapper and explorer who indeed was left for dead, survived a grizzly attack, and devoted his life to revenge.

His tale has been told for decades, most recently in The Revenant, directed by Alejandro Inarritu.

That film is itself based on the 2002 novel, 'The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge,' authored by Michael Punke, who wrote it while a partner at Mayer Brown. Punke worked in the firm's Washington, D.C., office from 1998 to 2003, in Mayer Brown's international trade practice.

Senate lobbying records show that Punke specialized in wheat law -- really -- but he's not unfamiliar with the harsh wilderness, having been born in Wyoming. According to The American Lawyer, Punke wrote the book in the early hours, before spending his days lobbying and lawyering.

He left Mayer Brown shortly after The Revenant was published and now works as a U.S. trade representative and ambassador to the World Trade Organization, a post which prevents him from speaking publicly about the book.

The film, by the way, has excellent reviews and is worthy of watching even without its BigLaw connection. Or you could just read the book.

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