You know you’ve struck a nerve when the President of the United States criticizes your movie before it even comes out. Such was the case with The Hunt, a dark comedy co-written by Damon Lindelof of Lost and Watchmen fame, which saw its release date pushed back roughly six months after some real-world shootings in late 2019. Was it worth the wait (and the initial controversy)? It’s time to find out.
After a joking text exchange about hunting “deplorables” gets embraced by the conspiracy crowd, a group of “liberal elites” experience real-world fallout and decide to turn this joke into reality. To do this they abduct a dozen people with the intent of releasing and then hunting them down, though one of them awakens on the flight and is killed en route.
The remaining 11 are left gagged in a remote area where a large container is filled with weapons so that they may arm themselves. Within moments of selecting their guns, the group is targeted by sniper fire. Attempts to escape result in such gruesome ends as stepping on landmines, falling in spike-filled pits and being blown up by grenades. A handful gets clear of the initial area but are soon whittled down to two: Don (Wayne Duvall) and Crystal (Betty Gilpin).
Realizing they’re no longer on American soil, the pair try to get in touch with the U.S. embassy for extraction back home. Crystal sniffs out the deception, however, and concludes that the only way to survive the ordeal is to turn the hunters into the hunted.
For all of the blow back The Hunt got based on its story of liberals hunting conservatives, one need only watch a few minutes to figure out the whole thing has its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Everyone is a caricature of how one side of the political spectrum theoretically views the other, so the biggest thing you need to ask yourself is if you can take a joke? If yes, then you might have a good time. If not, move along.
There’s tons of over-the-top violence, bordering on cartoonish. For instance, one guy getting shot with arrows incredulously asks what’s with the “Avatar shit.” People are blown up, impaled, gassed, poisoned, sniped and much more over the sub-90-minute run time. That allows things to move fast and the jokes not to wear out their welcome.
It takes nearly a third of the movie to elapse before Crystal has more than a few seconds of screen time, which seems weird considering she’s the lead. Along those same lines, Hilary Swank, who carries by far the most name recognition of the cast, has almost no presence in the film until the final 15 minutes or so. It makes for an odd structure and a final showdown that, while well implemented, doesn’t really feel like a payoff.
Plus, since nothing is taken seriously, The Hunt basically becomes a series of death sequences and one liners with very little plot or suspense to fill the moments between. It’s satire much more than comedy. As a spectacle it’s worth some chuckles. As a full-fledged motion picture it could’ve used a bit more depth. Also, was it us or was Gilpin trying to deliver all her lines while opening her mouth as little as possible? Ugh.
THE BONUS FEATURES
Keeping up with the brevity of the film, the Blu-ray’s extras consist of three short featurettes that run roughly 10 minutes combined. One breaks down the various deaths and another goes over the choreography of the final fight. They’re fine if that sort of thing interests you.
Looking back, the 2019 trailer presented a promise for a more interesting film than what was finally delivered earlier this year. It’s not a bad watch thanks to its outlandish violence and dark humour, but The Hunt feels like it could’ve done more with the premise.