The Hunt was originally set for release in September of 2019. But the outcry over its subject matter and the fact that there were two mass shootings in early August, one in Dayton, Ohio and another at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Universal pulled it completely. Not even On Demand or straight-to-DVD were graced with this film’s presence. Like that, it was gone like a little birdie who sprouted wings and flew away. The problem was the trailers had dropped and people had seen them and were interested or horrified; some both. Hence, all of the buzz. In watching the trailers I did not see any references to the political leanings that people were saying were there. President Trump’s name was not mentioned and there was no reference to liberals or Conservatives in any of the trailers. So I wondered where people were getting this from.
Now, that eighty percent of the United States is cooped up in their homes, Universal figured this is about as safe a time to release it as any. Now, you can see what people were up in arms about, but it ends up being a lot of sound and fury over nothing. The plot is basic. “Deplorables” are drugged, kidnapped and dumped onto an open field where they are hunted by Liberals. This is a twist on the classic story called The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, originally titled The Hounds of Zaroff in 1924. Hollywood has made it into countless films with different variations on the plot with The Hunt being the latest incarnate.
There is enough in The Hunt to offend everyone. The problem I had with this film is that it doesn’t know its audience. It thinks it does and tries to make broad, sweeping points but it misses the mark. Conservatives are represented as stupid, ignorant, illiterate, inbred rubes that are loud and obnoxious and taken to conspiracy theories. But in one scene one of the conspiracies turns out to be true so I don’t know what the point of that was. The Liberal elites, on the other hand represented as snotty, arrogant, buffoons and dolts that are as vain and shallow as they are stupid. Oh, and guess what? These Liberal elites love guns. None of it makes much sense and as a result it was hard for me to get invested in any of the characters. With one and a half exceptions.
Crystal (Betty Gilpin) has been throw in with the Deplorables and yet, she does not seem to fit in with any of them. Crystal is allegedly from Mississippi and is ex-military having served in Afghanistan which explains how she can handle herself. But she is smart, detail oriented and never lets on to what or how much she actually knows. She is a breath of fresh air and very exciting to watch on screen. The half I referred to is Hillary Swank as Athena and the organizer of the hunt. She is not in the film for very long and only shows up in total, towards the end. But what little screen time she does have, she is excellent. Her Athena is one twisted sister and seems to be having a ball with this role.
Screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are trying to say things but their script is all over the place. Rather than make definitive statements, rightly or wrongly, they hedge their bets and pull back. The only message that I came away with is that both sides suck and we need to find another hobby, other than politics which is too bad. I can agree or disagree with the musings of Cuse and Lindelof but make some definitive statements, guys, so we can bat them around a bit. Take a stand. Everything ends up being told in bland generalities. The Hunt tries to be satirical, horrific, action packed and darkly humorous and it delivers only minimal of any of these intentions. Was I offended? No, but the filmmakers seem to think they know Conservatives and they don’t. The problem is that if I was a Liberal I would be offended by what the filmmakers seem to think of them, too. They don’t know them, either and what they do say is not flattering, at all. Overall, The Hunt is a mixed bag of nothing but ninety minutes of mayhem, gore and a couple of chuckles. Betty Gilpin, however, is the real reason to see The Hunt with the added bonus of a truly, deliciously detestable Hillary Swank as Athena. I would have loved to have seen a film with just these two. Now, that would be something.
The Hunt – **3/4 out of 5
The Hunt – Rated R for language, graphic violence and gore
The Hunt – Run time is 90 minutes
The Hunt is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services.