FILM REVIEW – THE HUNT. With Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee. Written by Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof. Directed by Craig Zobel. Rated R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout. 89 minutes.
THE HUNT is a dark and violent satire that got pulled off the release schedule last year after two mass shootings (in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio). As with some films that got rescheduled after 9/11, it was the right thing to do. Now it can be seen in its own context, and it is an over-the-top take on political extremism of all stripes.
The set-up is that a bunch of people, dubbed “Deplorables” (after Hillary Clinton’s infamous characterization of supporters of Donald Trump), find themselves regaining consciousness in a field. In a variation of the famous short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” they are about to become the prey of a group of politically correct elitists. You may recognize several actors but don’t get too attached to any of them. As quickly becomes apparently, no one is safe.
Eventually we come to focus on Crystal (Betty Gilpin), a veteran with the smarts and fighting skills to survive. She learns not to trust anyone, even those who are supposedly other victims of this plot, as she works her way to Athena (Hilary Swank), a wealthy corporate executive who seems to be pulling the strings. Gilpin is great in the role, and her character is one who earns our respect.
As satire, no one should confuse this with “Dr. Strangelove” or “Wag The Dog.” This is more in keeping with “The Purge” movies which, not surprisingly, are also from Blumhouse Productions, a company which gets some top talent to do horror movies on a tight budget. Still, it has some sharp and funny insights as to the way both sides of our current political divide caricature each other. As with the best such material, it has something to offend the hypersensitive of every stripe.
Tightly written, the film clocks in at just under 90 minutes, while offering a knockdown, drag-out fight between the two female leads that’s bloodier and more acrobatic than anything seen in many recent action films. The story is complete, without the need for a sequel, but don’t be surprised – if the film is a big hit – that there’s at least one survivor at the end who could take things forward.
“The Hunt” is a pulpy B-movie that will primarily appeal to the action and horror fans for whom it was made. However, it will also work for those able to accept such trappings and appreciate the wit and cleverness that are invested in the otherwise lurid proceedings. Except for those snowflakes on the left and the right who can’t brook any criticism or incorrectness, it’s a satisfying, visceral send-up of our current politics.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.