Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Justin Hartley, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee
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Action and gore revel in blood-soaked splendour…triumphs…thanks to a sharply constructed premise that offers a piercing assessment on the American political divide.
As though Trump wasn’t incendiary enough already, headlines and tweets from 2019 would have you believe Blumhouse’s pseudo-horror-satire The Hunt would be the catalyst of America’s undoing.
….to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2019
The Hunt’s originally planned release date in 2019 coincided with numerous US mass shootings, the likes of which the film sets out to denounce, adding fuel to already flammable conversations regarding gun control, immigration, and political division.
Alas, six months later and a VOD release due to another crisis, The Hunt shines not as a piece of scathing left activism, but as a thoughtfully conceived, on-the-nose exploration of American disunity.
The Hunger Games meets Ready or Not as a group of strangers, each of whom have been kidnapped, fight for survival as a murderous threat hunts them down (Lost screenwriter Damon Lindelof, here co-writer and producer, sticking to his tale of isolated strangers bread-and-butter).
Their location and selection, unbeknownst to them, is explored as a series of intersecting narratives that contrasts the decidedly-virtuous antics of liberal figures with those of civilians deemed as ‘deplorables’.
The Hunt stands apart from politically laced genre films before it, by unabashedly leaning into its high-minded moxie. Its dissection of contemporary tensions, revealing of a progressivism rarely witnessed in ‘Liberal Hollywood’, portrays the self-destructive tendencies occurring at both ends of the political spectrum. Contrary to tabloid headlines, The Hunt gazes more critically at leftist attitudes, whose elitism is expressed via priggish PC-ism and perceived moral superiority.
There is no shortage of disparaging comments made in The Hunt that convey the dismay felt by its filmmakers. Director Craig Zobel (of Compliance and Z for Zachariah fame) voices discontent with an astuteness that details the explosive way extremist political views cause societal division.
The Hunt’s modest Blumhouse-style budget is evident, yet works in its favour to paint a raw and vivid picture of the heated political tensions currently experienced in America. Action and gore revel in blood-soaked splendour, but frequently overpowers the mood when it should add to it thematically. This, in particular, impacts the last act of the film, with a climactic spectacle of fisty-cuffs, landing somewhere between John Wick and Atomic Blonde in bloodiness, ham-fistedly positioned as a metaphor for disenfranchisement. (And don’t even go there with the gritty re-imagination of The Tortoise and the Hare…).
The Hunt experiences issues with structure, with the early handballing of narrative. However, commendable for its efforts to defy conventions, it ultimately denies the film the time needed to further explore its main characters. The film comes into motion upon the arrival of Betty Gilpin, who delivers a fine performance as a Rambo-esque figure fighting her way to freedom.
Neither the inflammatory nor chaotic propagation decreed by Trump in an unnecessarily retaliative tweet, The Hunt triumphs against its looming political controversy – the likes of which have stalked the film’s release – thanks to a sharply constructed premise that offers a piercing assessment on the American political divide.