As someone who is pretty much on board whenever we get a new spin on Richard Connell’s iconic short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," I was pretty primed when The Hunt was announced for release last fall. Of course, there was a ton of controversy surrounding the film, so it was delayed, and now we finally get to see what all the hubbub was about with the film’s arrival into theaters this weekend. And truth be told, while it might seem like The Hunt is set to skewer those with a certain set of beliefs, or deliver a cinematic takedown of one political party over the other, that really isn’t the case at all.
As it turns out, The Hunt actually ends up being a pretty thought-provoking examination of the current state of the political climate in the United States, with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, pointing out the problems that exist on both sides. Rather than a one-sided lambasting, The Hunt is really about the fact that we’re at a point now where everyone has stopped listening to each other and we have all just dug in so deep that we cannot possibly begin to fathom listening to anything that might be said by someone who doesn’t inherently share our own belief system. So, if you think you know what The Hunt is all about—think again.
As far as the setup goes, The Hunt is a pretty straightforward affair: a group of Republican-minded folks are kidnapped and wake up in the middle of a field, unaware of how they got there, and completely oblivious to the fact that they’re about to be hunted by a group of well-funded liberals. But as soon as the bullets start flying and bodies start dropping, it’s evident to those who were taken that they are in the fight of their lives. That’s a pretty simplistic rundown of The Hunt, as there is quite a bit more to the story, but I feel like revealing anything more would take away from viewers' experiences, as I rather enjoyed seeing just how everything was going to play out for myself, with very little information going into it.
The thing about The Hunt is that there’s been a great deal of fuss about what people expect from the story just based on those basic facts, but there’s really a lot more to it, and that’s what I really appreciated about the script from Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. There’s no doubt that most of us have our political belief system at this point in our lives, and while the ending sort of serves up a softball in regards to the film’s message, there’s still quite a bit about The Hunt that left me thinking afterwards, akin to how I felt after watching The Purge movies (more so the two sequels than the original, though). The Hunt is definitely not a subtle story by any means, but there is a great deal of pitch-black comedy (which I wasn’t expecting, since the trailers play it straight) that helps with most of the messaging, but also doesn’t feel like it’s preaching at us, either.
While I absolutely relished seeing Hilary Swank in a villainous (or maybe not?) role in The Hunt, it’s Betty Gilpin who steals the whole damn show as the offbeat badass Crystal, who isn’t going down without a fight. Where everyone else in the cast seems to be playing more stereotypical-esque characters (which isn’t a knock at all), Gilpin is just working on a completely different level in The Hunt, and honestly, if there is any reason to see this film, it’s her performance here. Also, there’s a final showdown in The Hunt that just goes on and on and on, reminding me of whenever Peter Griffin squares off with the giant chicken in Family Guy, and honestly, I cackled with glee throughout the whole damn sequence.
Without a doubt, The Hunt is sure to rile up some viewers out there, but it’ll be the ones who completely miss the point of what director Craig Zobel is doing with the film, because it’s definitely not what I was expecting, and it ended up being a lot more enlightening than the trailers would lead you to believe. Its handling of socio-political issues that we’re currently facing as a society may be shallow at times, especially when it comes to contextualizing its messaging, but as a whole, The Hunt is still entertaining as all hell, and definitely left me with some things to think about when all was said and done.
Movie Score: 3.5/5