After a rocky road to multiplexes, Blumhouse’s gory, satirical thriller finally makes it’s theatrical bow after pissing off a good selection of people (including a tweet from President Trump himself) BEFORE it was even released. Due to have been released in August of 2019 (it was understandably delayed following a spate of mass shootings in America) The Hunt is yet another retelling of The Most Dangerous Game which was a story about man hunting man for sport; the switch here is that this time, man is hunting man for politics…
Waking up from being drugged to find themselves in a strange field, a group of 12 strangers find a mysterious crate filled with weapons of every description. If this situation wasn’t unnerving enough, bullets, arrows and explosions start lancing through the air at them with the malevolent intention of making them definitively un-alive. As these hapless examples of reluctant prey scamper for their lives, it becomes apparent that these guys more than likely sit on the Republican side of the political divide as their various views are helpfully screamed out as carnage rains down upon them. Be it a redneck here, or a gun lover there, or even the tortured insult of the term “snowflake” being thrown around from the lips of the blown apart remains of a dying victim, it becomes quickly apparent that we’re in broad satire country here.
This point is driven home as bluntly as a stake into the ribcage of a vampire when we find out that the hunters are in fact a group of over privileged liberals who have seemingly targeted each of these people for their conservative views and had them spirited away to a place called “The Manor”.
So far, so one-sided… But in amongst all these “deplorables” (yes, they use that term) is Crystal, an extraordinarily tough and capable specimen of human being who almost matter-of-factly starts to take apart her left-wing attackers with her almost superhuman survival skills and soon the odds start to even, but waiting for her is super naturally driven business woman, Athena, who is ruthless, single-minded of purpose and has been training like a lunatic for months. The stage is set for the yawning chasm for the far right and the far left to finally come together in an orgy of blunt force trauma and a shit-load of stabbing, but who will walk out in one piece?
Before we get right to the meat of things, lets take care of the basics first: The Hunt is a fun, stupendously violent little thriller that seems to have delusions of grandeur and while it seemingly comes equipped with massive amounts of social commentary, it’s actually nowhere as smart as it thinks it is. Firstly, despite all the initial uproar about the film appearing to rip vast quantities of piss from Trump supporters (which it actually does) it actually rolls up it’s sleeves and extensively roasts the other side quite extensively too with the majority of the “hunters” as self serving, upper class, PC warriors who wring their hands at to what the world is coming to while lobbing grenades at their dying victims (assuming they remember to pull the pin, that is).
Taking steps to keep things sort-of light, both sides are portrayed fairly broadly by the script (co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindalhof) with such familiar faces as Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee and Always Sunny’s Glen Howerton popping up to flesh out mostly nameless stereotypes but it’s really social media and the phenomenon known as “fake news” that ends up being the real target when you find out how the whole thing actually got started.
It’s hardly groundbreaking stuff and most of the hot button issues the movie attempts to skewer is honestly like shooting fish in a barrel but what manages raises the movie above it’s basic but noisy satire is the two central female performances that keep the movie firmly in the “watchable” category.
Betty Gilpin (GLOW) and Hilary Swank play Crystal and Athena respectively and both are utterly magnificent with Crystal being almost being deceptively childish in her simplistic, monosyllabic manner who can also take out a room of people with cold blooded precision without breaking a sweat. Athena, on the other hand, is a toothy smiled cobra in super expensive shoes and the prospect of these women meeting (both mentally and physically) becomes the driving point for the whole movie.
And meet they do in a stab-happy climax that not only makes the whole endeavor worth it but, when the smoke of 2020 clears, may actually prove to be one of the best fight scenes of the year. Watching these two, massively capable women (who’s tolerance of bullshit is scarily low) literally ripping chunks out of each other as they systematically remodel a kitchen with each other’s skulls, is utterly exhilarating while also being darkly hilarious.
Funny when it needs to be with the odd nasty surprise lurking in reserve, The Hunt isn’t afraid to sling around a fair few gallons of crowd pleasing gore but is hardly the thought provoking satire it obviously wants to be. But as thrillers go, it has just enough quirks to carry it’s overused premise across the finish line with a minimum of fuss (at a lean 90 minutes it certainly doesn’t out stay it’s welcome). However, “a minimum of fuss” is hardly a term you should be using when describing biting satire and, after all the hullabaloo, The Hunt’s sharp edges are just too blunt to cut that deep.