LIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE HUNT AHEAD
If you go into Blumhouse’s The Hunt expecting it to be a farce demolishing one side of the political spectrum, you’d be half-right. The Hunt is more than that and less at the same time. If that doesn’t make sense right now, good. It’s now basically been “delayed” twice due to outside circumstances. Once in August due to a mass shooting and negative publicity surrounding the film. Now it was taken out of theaters due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s now been placed on VOD (video on demand). The film to rent is somewhat of a guinea pig for the movie industry. If this film does well at the $20 price point to rent, then others will latch onto that.
A quick aside about that. If you think paying $20 for renting a movie that either barely was in theaters or will not go to theaters, then you should check your receipts the next time movie theaters are open. If you watch this with another person, or your five person family, you can do the math. It’s not the normal $5 rental, but that was during normal times. Movie studios still have to try to make some money off their hard work. So I’m not too hard on that price point for any of these new films coming out.
Back to the film. The Hunt tells a very simple story up front. Rich, elites, kidnap and drug, poorer, less off people and hunt them for sport. It’s sort of like The Running-Man except without Arnold Schwarzenegger chewing up every scene. The Hunt doesn’t reach that classic height, but it makes for an entertaining hour and a half watch.
Where The Hunt Surprises
The film is directed by Craig Zobel. It’s written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Blumhouse has become a household name due to it’s gritty, stylized, horror/thriller films. This is no exception. The Hunt is light on the horror and veers more into the action territory. We’ve seen enough of these types of films try to be horror films, so it was a nice break to see a full-fledged action movie out of them. Most of the named cast isn’t actually in the film for long stretches. It stars Betty Gilpin (Of GLOW), Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, Glenn Howerton, Ethan Suplee, and Amy Madigan, in addition to some other great performances.
The Hunt breezes along at a nice pace. For an action film that’s trying to send a bit of a message, nothing feels bloated or overdone here. You get some comedy bits, you get some action, you get the terror of being hunted. It doesn’t get bogged down with backstory on what’s going on. The premise of the film explains pretty much what’s going on. There isn’t some grandiose plot here by the antagonist, it’s simple. In a lot of cases, simple isn’t good, here it’s what makes the film.
The acting in the film is pretty top notch. All of the characters are well cast and fit their parts. There’s a definite divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” in the film. The scenes all have different feels. When it’s all the elites in one scene, the lighting and camerawork have almost a dream-like look. While it’s the scenes with those that are hunted that give off almost a photo-realism and grime. When these two worlds collide at certain points, it leads to a fantastic juxtaposition.
Betty Gilpin Deserves Her Own Action Series
The real highlight of the film is the character that carries the show. Betty Gilpin’s character Crystal. Very early on in the film you can tell there’s something different about her. Throughout the hour and thirty minutes, the writers and director did a great job of subtly placing qualities and actions that show how smart and crafty Crystal is. That’s not to say that Gilpin just plays the classic ass-kicker the entire film. Her performance is subdued just enough to where until the final fight, she seems like just a normal person put into this situation.
The action scenes are where she really shines though. She puts on a performance that is awesome and a big showcase for what she could do in the likes of a Fast and Furious or Mission Impossible.
The Elephant/Donkey In The Room
Because I have to talk about this eventually, the film does have an overtone of “right-wing” vs. “left-wing”. Before people jump on me about this, go watch the movie. You’ll see that like South Park or Dave Chappelle, everyone is a target here. The extremes of both sides of political wings are shown and parodied here. The liberal elites all have uber political correctness. The conservative hunted all seem to have some sort of conspiracy theory or fanciful theory as to why they’re being hunted. When you’re shown the real reason, it’s sort of a let-down. That let-down works though, because it shows just how silly some of these extremes can go. There’s a specific scene at the end involving Gilpin and Swank that goes over the top of this all in a funny way.
The justification of this whole movie is based not on liberals thinking they’re better than conservatives or the other way around. It’s based on a silly misunderstanding that blows up into a huge proportion. The opening of the film shows a quick text message thread that shows how much media coverage of anything that both political sides do, is a farce at times. That’s the idea that The Hunt is going for with it’s commentary. It’s not that one side or the other is better, it’s that both sides can be immensely thick headed and dumb. This makes the character of Crystal and her reveal at the end, that much better.
The Bad Of The Hunt
Well, you might look at the cast and see how many stars are in it. Then feel sort of cheated after you watch the movie. I didn’t feel that way, it just makes the first act feel more momentous and surprising. This is Betty Gilpin’s movie through and through. Emma Roberts isn’t going to change that. Because of this all the scenes with the “stars” of the film at the beginning feel more like individual spots instead of something apart of a bigger picture. It doesn’t take much away from the film, but I can see how people might be peeved about that.
Their inclusion is to get you to to watch the film. The rest of the cast keeps you watching. If anything, the ending of the film is a bit formulaic. Reinventing the action wheel is really hard to do these days without going completely over the top with a wrecking ball like the Fast and Furious franchise has done.
Some More Issues
The middle section of the film could use a bit of a kick in the ass to get going. There’s a section involving Crystal, Don??? (that’s his characters credited name), and an agent from the US Embassy in Croatia, that ends with Gilpin telling a story to Don. The story is a classic one we’ve all heard with a bit of a twist. This story and the meaning behind it isn’t really paid off through the rest of the film. It’s a dark tale that will grip you, but it could have been done without.
The film’s humor and message might get lost on people that feel like they’re getting made fun of. Everyone is getting made fun of in this film. It’s not just you. The violence is turned up a lot, especially in the final scene. The final fight for Gilpin and Swank is a bit outlandish, and breaks a lot of rules of logic. But we’re in a movie, so suspend that disbelief a bit.
My Final Score
I watched The Hunt twice in the 48 hour period for my rental. If you’re looking for a movie to escape a bit of this current situation we’re in, and you want something gritty, and grimey, go for The Hunt. The price point of the rental won’t factor in here. It’s a great escape for a small time and doesn’t do anything that you haven’t seen before. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth your time though. What it does that other films have done, it does well. The comedy and message might not resonate with everyone but that’s not an overarching portion of the film.
The Hunt deserves a watch from anyone who’s a fan of action or dark comedy. To steal from Siskel and Ebert, I’ll give it 3 stars out of 4. It’s not a masterwork, but it’s a starmaker for Betty Gilpin. Much like Ready Or Not from last year, I want to see more from these filmmakers and her.
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