HomeMovies'The Hunt' Review: Worth Deciding for Yourself

‘The Hunt’ Review: Worth Deciding for Yourself

Betty Gilpin in The Hunt
Photo Courtesy: Universal Pictures

It’s kind of crazy how Universal and Blumhouse can’t seem to catch a break with The Hunt. Initially meant to release in September of last year, the film was met with an onslaught of negative reactions surrounding its politics that even upset some people in The White House. Even when the studios decided to delay the film to March and rebrand it by letting viewers “Decide for Themselves,” it once again hit a major roadblock in form of the coronavirus outbreak.

Thankfully, though, Universal has brought The Hunt to VOD early to give everyone stuck at home something to watch. So, with all that said, it’s time to decide for ourselves whether or not The Hunt earns its controversial label or if it’s even good. Even though I’ve seen the film twice, The Hunt is kind of a strange and obscure puzzle for me—however, not in terms of whether or not it’s entertaining.

The main plot thread that made the film controversial for so many people of a bunch of rich liberal elites kidnapping and hunting down a variety of conservatives for sport still remains. Frankly, while the political motivations do make The Hunt a little unique, it’s hard not to make comparisons to another Blumhouse franchise, The Purge, and even things like The World’s Most Dangerous Game (which is ironically also being brought back this year for the new streaming service, Quibi). However, when the film was being re-branded, the advertising constantly suggested that we weren’t getting the film we thought we were and to give it some credit, The Hunt is actually very effective in subverting expectations.

Right from the opening, we’re introduced to both sides and left wondering who’s actually important. Even as the big group of conservative targets walk towards a big box of weapons and a pig named Orville, you can’t help but pick out who you think will last based on recognizable faces and first impressions. Right from the first kill though, the film squashes your beliefs and expectations and really gives off this vibe of no one being safe and it’s very refreshing as a viewer.

Once everything kicks off, the film is a never-ending bloodbath filled with fun characters and gruesome kills and with Blumhouse constantly releasing PG-13 horror flicks, I can’t tell you how nice it is for them just to let loose and let the blood and guts fly. The unpredictability in the opening actually continues throughout, as the story goes to some unexpected places. From a strange military base to finding out the entire motivation behind “the hunt,” the film is definitely surprising and that’s in big part how it keeps viewers hooked. Not to mention, there are two incredible leading performances from Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank that viewers will love and which help create a no-holds-barred grudge match that viewers will never forget.

Gilpin’s Crystal is a dominating force to be reckoned with as a capable and calculated Mississippi badass with a set of skills that make her a nightmare for the Liberals looking to hunt. Throughout the film, there’s this palpable quiet anger and is an immense driving force for Crystal as she looks to turn the tables on the cocky liberals that are hunting her. There’s a great balance of kick-ass action and great lines as she proves herself more than capable of any fight on multiple occasions—including a scene about knowing the price of a pack of cigarettes in Arkansas. It’s the kind of performance and character that viewers will get behind and is a perfect polar opposite to Swank’s Athena.

In every way that Crystal is your ragtag hero that’s always at the front of the line, Athena is every bit your scenery-chewing villain that keeps herself in the shadows until she’s ready to strike. While I do wish the Swank’s appearance were kept out of the trailers since her face is left a secret for most of the film and it could’ve been the cherry on top of surprises, she was easily one of my most anticipated aspects and she doesn’t disappoint. With every moment that passes until her final meeting with Crystal, you can feel her devilishly gleeful smile growing and Swank’s performance gives her this presence even when she’s not on-screen. She also has a great villain monologue that kicks off a final act that is a non-stop fight to the finish between her and Crystal that’s an absolute blast to watch.

While the film is definitely a blast from an entertainment standpoint, the politics injected throughout can be a little messy and the satirical humor doesn’t always land as strongly as the script thinks. Believe it or not, The Hunt is actually written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindleof, who have just come off of another very political driven and divisive show: HBO’s Watchmen. So, it’s no surprise that The Hunt has such a strong political drive behind it, but they go for a much more satirical route here that ends up being hit or miss.

To give the film some credit, it’s not afraid to poke fun at both sides of the political spectrum and it does lead to some good laughs. From how one of Athena’s cohorts doesn’t want people to joke about serious social issues, like abortion or gender, to conservatives’ insensitivity and how Don (Wayne Duvall) is ready to “blow the lid off this thing like them two Jew boys [Woodward and Bernstein] that fucked up Nixon,” the film definitely asks viewers to kind of point at themselves and laugh. However, the problem with The Hunt trying to be satire is that most of its characters end up coming off more like caricatures because of limited screen time and character development. Most of the characters are just meant to push a stereotype or narrative about their respective political agenda and the jokes often feel forced and don’t always land or make sense.

For instance, there’s a point where Staten Island (Ike Barinholtz) talks about owning seven guns because it’s his constitutional right and the liberals he’s talking to question if the people hunting them are just doing the same thing. It’s a moment that attempts to make viewers think, even if it doesn’t make much sense, and it’s one of many moments where the film just wants to talk about politics and social issues but not put anything behind it. The same occurs when Athena and Crystal finally come together and it just feels like the film shoves in a lot of the political discourse. I will say though, I really loved the motivation that comes in the final act for Athena wanting to put this all together, as it ties back to the kind of online discourse that’s become so prevalent in politics today.

It also feels like there’s one part of the political spectrum that’s totally missed here: those in middle. Perhaps Crystal is meant to act as our unbiased middle ground between the conservatives and liberals, since her motivations and beliefs are kept in the dark for so much of the film, but it never fully commits or confirms this idea. Without this sense of a middle ground or neutral character, the film can never be as unbiased as it wants to be, clearly drawing hero/villain lines right from the start. Not to mention, you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be funny for there to be one character that everyone equally doesn’t like and are constantly telling to pick a side wouldn’t be both hilarious and kind of enlightening.

So, at the end of day, take The Hunt for what’s it is. It’s certainly an action-packed bloodbath that will keep viewers hooked from start to finish through some fresh surprises in the story, fun characters, and two rock-solid performances from Gilpin and Swank. However, it also misses the mark in creating a strong satire of the political spectrum that’s kind of needed given how tense the political climate has become. Overall, I think the best thing I can say with The Hunt is that it’s definitely worth deciding for yourself.

The Hunt is now available to rent on VOD.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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