We’re currently in the midst of the one of the strangest times for the world in recent memory. And, that has had pretty huge effects on the movie industry. Basically every major release for the next few months have been rescheduled, films being made currently are being shut down, and it seems like studios may be inching every closer to cutting movie theaters out of the equation completely. And, in the midst of these cancellations and release shifts there have been two particularly unlucky films. There’s of course the perpetually unreleasable New Mutants, which the universe seems dead-set against ever letting people see, and the controversial film I’m taking about today, the Hunt. Now, in case you aren’t familiar with this film, it was scheduled to be released in September of last year, as the above poster like to poke fun at. But, after conservative media, including the game-show host who currently runs the United States government, got wind of the basic premise of the film they were thrown into an uproar. People started vehemently hating the film, before it has even been released, and it was eventually decided that the film would be pulled from distribution in order to avoid any conservative violence. But, it was never in question that the film would eventually be released. You don’t just make a movie and then not release it, unless you’re Terry Gilliam. So, predictably, the film was finally set to be released, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was really hitting America, resulting in the film being released to no one, and quickly placed on Video on Demand to attempt and at least get some people to see it. It’s quite a bit of legacy already built into it, and it has been given the tantalizing air of something conroversial, so of course I was excited to finally see it and learn if it actually lives up to the insurmountable hype that it’s generated. And, I’m still really not sure what to think about it.
The film, as you maybe were aware, is the story of a group of liberal elites kidnapping a series of rural conservaties, taking them to Croatia, and hunting them for sport. But, as we start to learn through the course of the film, this isn’t something that was supposed to happen. The film begins with said elites joking about hunting these people, and we eventually learn that it was indeed just a joke. But, after their texts were leaked to the public through a data breach, conservative media jumped on the idea of rich liberals hunting poor conservatives, and began harassing the elites to the point where they finally decide to just do it anyway, as some sort of revenge. They scour the internet to find the worst offenders they can of propogating this new conspiracy theory, drug and kidnap them, and fly them out to a whole fake town they’ve built in order to hunt the “Deplorables.” They give them a bit of a fighting chance, providing them with some weapons, but we see them almost all quickly get violently dispatched. And, as the various actors in the film get removed from the board, we realize who our lead is going to be. Crystal Creasey, a woman from Mississippi, seems to be the only person who wants to take things slowly, and to actually think. She avoid traps, trusts no one, and quickly starts to establish that something is terribly wrong, and begins working to uncover the conspiracy.
She does end up meeting one man named Gary who seems to also be taking things cautiously, and together they start trying to escape, managing to get onto a train. But, they end up encountering a group of Arab migrants aboard, right as the Croatian military stops the train and arrests them all. Gary ends up killing one of the migrants, who turns out to be one of the rich people running the hunt, and Crystal is picked up by an American governmental figure, along with another Deplorable named Don. But, that also turns out to be a trap, and Crystal is forced to kill the government guy, and in the process learns where most of the other rich people are staying. She and Don storm their base, and they end up killing all of them. But, in the process they get a radio call from the woman running things, Athena. She gets Crystal to kill Don, convincing her that he’s a plant as well, and then gives Crystal her location so they can fight as the last two surviving people involved in the Hunt. Crystal gets to Athena’s manor, and after the two begin talking we learn that his isn’t the Crystal that they meant to kidnap, and she’s someone who had nothing to do with this whole Hunt conspiracy. But, Athena is already in too deep, and the two start fighting, before Crystal is finally able to kill her. She then boards Athena’s private plane and orders the crew to fly her back to America, triumphant.
The Hunt is fine. I’m seeing some people really love it, and some really hate it, but for me it was just kind of average. There were things I liked about it, and things I really didn’t, and it generally became just an okay experience. It wasn’t for me. To be positive, the thing looks great. The action sequences, and the practical gore effects are truly astounding, especially the final fight scene. And, as I’m seeing almost everyone point out, Betty Gilpin is fantastic in the film. She quickly slides into being the lead of the film, and becomes an instant classic character. She has great lines, handles the action beautifully, and gives a shocking amount of depth to what so easily could become a ridiculous caricature of a character, especially considering essentially every other performance in the film. Which, kind of becomes emblematic of my major problems with the film. Everyone else in the film is a ridiculous cartoon character, either of viciously racist redneck or a morally bereft billionaire who is play-acting at performative wokeness, with no real subtly or insight. Which kind of makes the politics of the film a little muddled. At times the movie seems to be taking the cowards way out, looking at the state of the world and thinking that both sides are dumb, so what’s the point in supporting either. But, by the end the movie starts to take some stabs at more of a class warfare thing, more logically showing that the it’s the rich ruling class that we should really be worried about, because they don’t stand for anything but themselves. Which, feels more correct, but still ends up just being a bit muddled.
Now that I’m on the other side of the Hunt I’m not sure if there’s absolutely any possibility that this film was ever going to meet the hype created by its cancellation. Before the controversy sprung, the film looking like something I’d end up seeing, because I see everything, but it wasn’t something I was excited about. It looked like it could be fun, dumb, and forgettable. Which, is what it ended up being. It was fun, I do wish I got to see it in a theater, and I think it’s a little dumber than it thinks it is. But, due to completely insane circumstances, the film ended up being rocketed into a strange echelon on importance. People judged the film, sight unseen, and assumed that it was going to be a movie about rich people gleefully killing Trump supporters, and that they’d be portrayed as noble heroes. Which, obviously wasn’t what the film was going to be, but conservatives love to view themselves as victims, so they began an uproar that turned this relatively dumb and forgettable film into some sort of political talking point. It became a partisan object to be wrestled over, something demonized by the right and embraced by the moderates who think they’re on the left. And, in actuality, it’s just kind of a dumb action movie with a little more on its mind than most other movies of its caliber. But, thanks to loud conservatives the movie ended up getting more pressure than it ever needed. Which, is a shame, because this probably was never supposed to be a movie that would be this talked about and picked over. But, sometimes the real world can have huge effects on movies, for good or bad.
The Hunt was written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindeloff, directed by Craig Zobel, and released by Universal Pictures, 2020.
Categories: Reel Talk