It’s the most talked about movie of the year that no one’s actually seen! Or at least that’s what the tagline would have us believe. Truth is there is a fair amount of controversy surrounding this film. Originally scheduled for release last September, The Hunt was delayed in the wake of the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings after a critical tweet by The Donald himself. Turns out the premise of wealthy liberal elites kidnapping and hunting the infamously labeled “basket of deplorables” raised a few eyebrows. Now the movie is finally here and we get to judge it for ourselves.
The premise really is that simple. In this modern day take on Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, a secret network of liberal elites gathers a group of stereotypical right wingers, releases them in the wilderness behind their manor, arm them, and hunt. They mow them down one by one until Crystal (Betty Gilpin) starts to turn the tables. What ensues is a bloody gorefest that will only cease once one group or the other has no one left standing.
Before we all go posting outrage on social media, I would like to emphasize that I feel the most controversial thing about this movie is the premise itself. This Blumhouse production is very much a satire, not meant to be taken remotely seriously, and designed expressly to poke fun at our political division. It’s chalk full of caricatures of both the extreme right and left and there is no whiff of bias or agenda to be found here.
Directed by Craig Zobel and co-written by Damon Lindelof, The Hunt certainly has some talent behind it. The performances are all appropriate for the tone of the film with a surprise A-lister stealing the show towards the end. At least it feels like it should have been a surprise, but since she’s appearing in all the trailers, I guess there’s no harm is saying it’s Hilary Swank.
The Hunt is a classic splatter fest. Limbs are flying and blood is gushing in very unrealistic ways. For viewers who find it distasteful, there is one animal death to look out for as well. The movie doesn’t have much sense of realism and instead chooses to revel in its own silliness. There are plenty of cliché jokes thrown about regarding left/right wingers in the vein of snowflakes, crisis actors, etc., but none I’d consider higher than maybe a 2/10 on the outrage meter. Much of it is more roll-your-eyes rather than laugh-out-loud humor, settling for acceptably goofy over outrageous and potentially offensive.
Despite the controversial gimmick and constant blood splatter, it takes The Hunt a while to feel inspired. The novelty of the premise eventually wears off and around the halfway point the plot suddenly becomes mind numbingly nonsensical. Granted coherency isn’t exactly a requirement in this kind of movie, but the sudden departure of all remnants of it, along with an unexpected character swap, leaves me wondering if the controversy surrounding the film potentially led to some major post-production revisions. It’s possible what we’re seeing is a neutered version of what was, but whatever the reason may be, it starts to feel like the wheels are coming off.
Fortunately, The Hunt eventually recovers and in a surprisingly big way. The highlights of the film all come in the third act where we get two solid plot twists and a thrilling final confrontation. The greater of the two plot twists is actually quite ingenious and serves as a suitable social commentary topping off this daring satire. It doesn’t quite make up for all the nonsense that proceeded it, but it does salvage this from being a completely brainless and incoherent mess.
The Hunt is not a great movie, or even a good one, but it is fun. Even though it’s trying to capitalize off its own controversy, it’s really not worthy of it. The premise sounds far more outrageous than the movie allows it to be, and the satire is far sillier than it is offensive. In fact, if you have a good-humored family member or friend of a different political persuasion who might enjoy this kind of thing, I’d recommend getting together with them and watching it. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes, and I think now might be as good a time as ever to set aside the constant outrage for a minute, self-reflect a bit, and just laugh at something stupid and fun.
About The Hunt
Synopsis: A secret network of liberal elites kidnap a group of stereotypical right wingers and hunt them for sport.
Director: Craig Zobel
Writers: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Stars: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank
Run time: 1 Hour, 55 Minutes