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Blu-ray Review: The Hunt

June 16, 2020

By John Corrado

½ (out of 4)

There are some movies that just can’t seem to catch a break, and The Hunt, director Craig Zobel’s mix of political satire and ultra-violent action thriller which imagines a scenario where “elites” are hunting “deplorables” for sport, seems to be one of them.

The film was meant to open in theatres last September, but a series of mass shootings the month before forced distributor Universal and production company Blumhouse to rethink their marketing for the film, with the trailer having just been released.

Then President Donald Trump took to twitter to suggest that releasing the film would incite further violence, picking up on the not so subtle allegory of the film’s “elites” representing rich Hollywood liberals with the “deplorables” meant to be stand-ins for his own supporters, leading to the studio’s decision to pull the film from its calendar. The film finally opened in theatres on March 13th of this year, only to be met with more bad luck; a few days later, the COVID-19 pandemic forced theatres to close their doors, pushing it to an early digital release.

Now the film is being released on Blu-ray, and the timing still feels off; it’s arriving in the midst of mass protests against police brutality in the United States, making the film’s jokey graphic violence seem even more insensitive. Like I said, The Hunt just can’t seem to catch a break. This is all pretty fascinating in terms of a backstory for the film, and I will admit that it made me intrigued to see it for myself. But with all of this hullabaloo surrounding The Hunt, and the appearance of it being censored by the president no less, it’s frustrating that the film itself isn’t better.

I finally had a chance to watch The Hunt last week and, well, it’s not really good at all. The film, which could be sold as sort of like a mix between The Purge, Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, opens with a group of people being taken to a place called The Manor, where they wake up with gags in their mouths in the middle of the sprawling estate. They are supplied with an arsenal of weapons, and it’s not long before they find themselves being shot at, hit with arrows, and facing various other death traps.

This is all part of a twisted game designed to give rich liberals the chance to pick off poor Red State conservatives, who are hunting them to let off steam. The game, which serves as a literal example of class warfare, is being masterminded by Athena (Hillary Swank), a shadowy figure pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Athena meets her match in Crystal (Betty Gilpin), a tough as nails participant who decides to fight back, and a lot of grisly violence ensues as she punches, kicks, stabs and shoots her way out of this sadistic playground.

Some of Trump’s supporters took his side in protesting against the film, but The Hunt could actually be seen as being on the side of the MAGA crowd. It’s damn near impossible to discern whose side the film is supposed to be on or what it’s even trying to say, and while I understand that this ambiguity was fully intended by screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the film is not smart or clever enough to pull it off. What we are left with is an almost incomprehensible jumble of ideas, (there is a pig named Orwell, a blaringly obvious nod to Animal Farm), that thinks it’s saying more than it actually is.

While The Hunt seeks to provide some commentary on our deeply polarized political environment, and the blinding partisanship of both leftists and right-wingers, the script is clunky and obvious. The film often feels like it is going after low hanging fruit with its uses of insults like “libtard” and “snowflake,” while making vague attempts at calling out things like fake news, online conspiracy theories and cancel culture. Gilpin is probably the best thing about the film, and she does make for a decent working class action hero, but the movie around her is too messy to really recommend.

While The Hunt certainly had enough pre-release buzz to pique the interest of potential viewers, and this could certainly help turn it into somewhat of a cult favourite, the story of how it came to be released is ultimately the most interesting thing about it. This is a schlocky, politically charged B-movie that made a lot of noise, but ultimately doesn’t have much to say at all.

The Blu-ray also includes the three featurettes Crafting The Hunt, Death Scene Breakdowns and Athena vs. Crystal: Hunter or Hunted?, which are all quite short.

The Hunt is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 90 minutes and rated 18A.

Street Date: June 9th, 2020

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