The Hunt is finally here. The film we never thought we’d get to see because of all of those pesky mass shootings is being released upon the masses right in the middle of a global pandemic. And, if you think either the timing of the release itself or the previous reference to “pesky mass shootings” are in bad taste, well, prepare yourself, because this movie traffics exclusively in those kinds of bad faith arguments. It’s not owned, man, it’s all just a joke.
Opening with that most exciting of setups, a scrolling text chain, the film quickly establishes its muddled tone with the use of the word “deplorables” by supposed liberal types. Of course, the only person to ever use that term seriously was Hillary Clinton. Nowadays, idiotic conservatives use it to assume what’s being said about them and to make fun of the kinds of people who, they reckon, would correct each other for using the term “black” instead of “African American.”
We then cut to a swanky private jet, upon which several liberal elite types are traveling en route to the titular event. One of the drooling rednecks they’ve drugged and kidnapped awakens a bit early, leading to all kinds of gory shenanigans while the plane careens through the skies. For a moment, The Hunt actually resembles an interesting movie, one focused entirely on the unraveling saga aboard this private jet, where there’s no escape and it’s a genuine struggle between equally-matched foes.
Instead, the action stalls to a complete halt as a group of annoyingly high-profile actors, including the brilliant Ike Barinholtz, putting in the very definition of a paycheck performance, and Emma Roberts in a wig so terrible it wouldn’t grace Ru Paul’s Party City collection, awaken in a field and quickly realize they’re about to be picked off one by one. Within a few minutes, most of them are gone, in bloody but strangely PG fashion (the movie is rated R, mostly for swearing presumably). Barinholtz’s gun-mad New Yorker (huh?) makes it to what he believes is a safe haven only to discover the elderly couple running the place aren’t as sweet as they look. One of them shouts about climate change being real before shooting.
The real protagonist, you see, is Betty Gilpin’s Mississippi vet, whose distractingly booby T-shirt and baggy pants are ideal for gunning down everybody who crosses her path. Even without watching The Hunt, you know Gilpin’s Crystal is the lead, so why the film thinks we’re going to be shocked when everybody else gets offed first is beyond me. Along the way, she runs into our beloved Macon Blair, who emerges unscathed because just seeing him onscreen is enough to assuage us for one fleeting moment of respite. Oh, did I mention Oscar winner Hilary Swank is in this? Go figure, but her arms look great.
The Hunt has been coming for a long, long time, and it gives me no great pleasure to reveal the film’s most interesting element is the fact it was pushed back. Without that marketing gimmick, this dull, uninspired, and ultimately worthless exercise in “both sides are bad” political posturing would have been in and out of theaters quicker than Crystal blows some liberal caricature’s brains out. Director Craig Zobel told Variety, “Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally. …It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be,” which is generous, to put it mildly.
The problem with this kind of approach is it negates the fact one side is full of minorities who are clamoring for their basic human rights. Suggesting all liberals are rich white people working corporate jobs who need only to lose their footing in whatever industry they work to begin literally killing those on the other side of the divide is an argument put forth solely by conservative lunatics like Alex Jones, et al. Intelligent, reasonable people recognize that Trump’s “there were fine people on both sides” rhetoric was so offensive precisely because one side was very much in the wrong. Arguing that both parties are equally deserving of ridicule isn’t just inaccurate, it’s dangerous. However, The Hunt doesn’t even do that. It’s so preoccupied with its own self-importance, Zobel and his writers forget to take a stance.
The Hunt markets itself as a horror-comedy, but there are zero laughs. Maybe we’re supposed to find it funny that there actually is a crisis actor working amongst real refugees, as conspiracy theorists would have us believe (never mind Jones himself was sued for suggesting just that about Sandy Hook)? Or that, as it turns out, liberals supposedly love guns just as much as conservatives? The joke is we’re all as bad as each other! LOL! If it weren’t so smug and self-serving, the film might be impressive in just how much it misses the point. There isn’t one, to be clear. People are gunned down in varyingly bloody but uninspired ways, dumb remarks are made, and nothing matters. Simple as.
The closest comparison to The Hunt is, obviously, The Purge, a series that began with a rich family, led by Ethan Hawke, being besieged in their own high-tech home by a group of masked vigilantes before transforming into a sharp, thrilling, and minority-focused and led take-down of real-world issues including racism, class struggle, and sexism. Hell, The Purge even elected a female president, which makes it more progressive than, er, real life. It might be schlocky and prominently features Frank Grillo as a grizzled fixer, but at least James DeMonaco has something to say; a perspective, a position.
The Hunt has nothing to say. Its marketing materials proudly proclaim the movie to be the most talked about release of the year but, really, there’s nothing of interest here, nothing to discuss, nothing to even really get mad about. The thing is shot horribly and demonstrably on the cheap, from Roberts’ awful wig to the literal field where, inexplicably, much of the most important action takes place (apparently it was shot in Louisiana, but it’s not exactly a commercial for it). The script, credited to Nick Cuse (The Leftovers) and Damon Lindelof (Lost) is embarrassingly clunky. That first usage of “deplorables” is a major red flag, but it gets even more obvious from then on. Zobel, meanwhile, directed the brilliant and shockingly prescient Compliance so it’s incredibly confounding that three major talents managed to produce…this.
See Also: Not Quite Horror: Compliance (2012)
I’m not going to suggest anything about the politics of these three men but, on this evidence, it seems they all belong to the out of touch liberal elite they’re so desperate to gleefully skewer. Anybody who’s still claiming, in the year 2020, that both sides are equally at fault for the state of the world needs their head examined. Even if they wanted to make that argument, there are cleverer ways to do it than this. The Hunt tries to shock with gory violence and bad taste jokes, but the most surprising thing about it is just how predictable, boring, and utterly devoid of a point it is. The most talked about movie of the year? I’ve got more stuff to say about My Spy than this edgelord bollocks.
WICKED RATING: 2/10
Director(s): Craig Zobel
Writer(s): Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Stars: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Macon Blair
Release date: March 12, 2020
Studio/Production Company: Blumhouse
Run Time: 90 minutes