Ohhhhhh the controversy. The Hunt, of course, is most famously known as being the movie that the fucking sorry excuse for a person we have in charge of our country tweeted about (“The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true racists, and are very bad for our country!”). See, he latched onto the description of “rich elites” hunting people for sport, and decided that the film was racist against …. super rich white people. Yup. That’s where we’re at right now, folks.
Anyways! Writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof — Producer & Creator of the absolutely brilliant Watchmen series — tried to put something together that played with the idea of how one’s political leaning creates unfair stereotypes, and flipped the script by having the rich white elites be “woke liberals” who are sick and tired of Deplorables running their mouths off on social media and ruining our country.
That sounds pretty fun on paper, but unfortunately the message at the end of the film ends up coming across as, “Hey we’re all the same! If we just came together, we would stop fighting” — a message confirmed in the special features by the filmmakers, btw — and it just doesn’t work. ESPECIALLY RIGHT NOW. There’s also a lot of references to George Orwell’s Animal Farm which I just … don’t even know how to respond to.
That said, if you can ignore that unnecessary nonsense and just focus on the powerhouse that is Betty Gilpin and the absolutely killer practical F/X, The Hunt is pretty enjoyable. The plot follows a group of woke elites that joke over text about a Deplorables theory circulating on social media called “Manorgate,” the idea that rich white liberals are kidnapping and hunting right-wing ‘mericans. Their super woke bosses find the texts and then fire them all, and they’re all so mad about it, they decide to do it for real.
The elites, led by Athena (Hilary Swank, who is amazing in this campy role), kidnap a group of people selected based on their heinous social media activity (anti-gay protesters, big game hunters, shock-jock radio ranters, etc.) and dump them in the middle of a trap-filled property in order to hunt them. To make it a fair game, they give them some weapons. Each member of the hunted has a nickname: Staten Island, Shut the F**k Up Gary, Dead Sexy, Yoga Pants, Big Red, etc. — and Snowball, aka Crystal (Betty Gilpin).
Unfortunately, Athena messed up her research on Crystal, who turns out to to be a survivalist that starts fucking shit up for the elites right away by outsmarting them and changing the rules of the game by hunting down each one of them instead.
I did enjoy the way Cuse & Lindelof poked fun at liberal elites; Ma (Amy Madigan!) and Pop (Reed Birney) exchange some great lines, and everyone else in the elite group acts exactly the way I assume liberal 1%-ers actually are. Director Craig Zobel also does an excellent job showcasing the action and gory effects (so! much! splatter!), and is especially brilliant at capturing the brutal fight between the two main characters (which Gilpin & Swank did most of themselves!).
Overall, The Hunt is a mixed bag of good and bad. As an F/X fan, I really appreciate the obvious care and time taken to make and capture some absolutely kick-ass practical stuff, and, as mentioned, Gilpin as Crystal is simply brilliant — and pairing her with Swank was a great move, as the two have some insane chemistry and play off each other perfectly. But the end “message” is just super misguided and sucks a lot of the fun out of the film (especially after you watch those bonus features and listen to Jason Blum and the writers talk about it). Eh, it is what it is.
There aren’t very many bonus features on this disc (no director or cast commentary? bummer.), but here’s a breakdown of what’s there:
CRAFTING THE HUNT
Interesting discussion about how the filmmakers chose specific costumes and props — I do have to say that the gas station set is PHENOMENAL. Shoutout to those set dressers! — with callouts to how those choices helped inform the characters and the setting.
DEATH SCENE BREAKDOWNS
My fave bonus feature! A deep dive (although a short one; all these bonus features are really, really short) into crafting the Special F/X. I especially enjoyed the details on the stake pit and the exploded belly.
ATHENA VS. CRYSTAL: HUNTER OR THE HUNTED?
A closer look at Gilpin & Swank’s fight scene, including some behind-the-scenes practice sessions and interviews with both that provide more insight into their characters.
The Hunt Blu-ray is out now, and can also be purchased digitally with the bonus features.