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“The Hunt” Goes In A Way Different Direction Than Expected

To believe the controversy last year, The Hunt was going to be the most vile film ever to be releases. Of course, those railing against it hadn’t seen it, and arguably hadn’t even seen the previews. However, I have seen the movie, and can tell you that, unsurprisingly, the conservative pundits had it all wrong. No, this is not just 90 minutes of liberals killing “deplorables.” In actuality, this leans into satire, parodying the most liberal and “woke” of individuals. Yes, the bones of what you’ve heard about are there, but this goes in a way different direction than you’d expect. In fact, it’s better for it, emerging as a shockingly good time from Jason Blum, Blumhouse, and the mind of Damon Lindelof (among others).

The film imagines a rumored scandal called Manorgate, where wealthy elites bring salt of the earth folk to hunt for sport. When a dozen individuals wake up in a secluded area and begin getting picked off, they know that this is no longer just a rumor. However, they’re ill equipped, save for a surprisingly tough woman named Crystal (Betty Gilpin). She proves rather impossible to handle, quickly turning the odds and seeking to figure out who is running the show, why they’re doing this, and what can be done to stop it. As she fights for survival, she draws closer to the mysterious Athena (Hilary Swank), ultimately setting up a confrontation that mixes opposing viewpoints with some brutal violence. Craig Zobel directs a script penned by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Cinematography is by Darran Tiernan, while Nathan Barr composed the score. Rounding out the cast are Ike Barinholtz, Reed Birney, Macon Blair, Wayne Duvall, Glenn Howerton, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts, Sturgill Simpson, Ethan Suplee, Teri Wyble, and more.

There’s a devilish sense of humor on display here. Far more a satire than an action/horror/thriller, the creative forces here seek to skewer “woke” PC culture. The satirical elements are broadly done, but work, and oddly mix together well with a gory fight for survival. Neither aspect on their own would make for a fully satisfying flick, but the mixture winds up being very pleasing. You have to have the stomach and the personality for this sort of a thing, but much like Ready or Not last year, it’s here to tickle your particular fancy, if applicable. Cute, Lindelof, Zobel, and company are having a blast though, that’s for sure.

The Hunt also boasts what may well be a turn by Betty Gilpin that makes her into a bonafide movie star. She digs into this part and runs with it. Her reactions to some of the more bizarre things that happen are often a riot. She’s the cast member given the most to do, the most heft to her character, and arguably the one that the script only truly cares about, so she needed to ace the role. Luckily, she handles it perfectly, giving audiences an entryway into a film that may end up excluding more than its fair share of viewers.

This weekend, The Hunt is finally coming out. Some of you may have been awaiting its release for months. Others could be dreading it. Just know that it’s not the tone deaf slaughtering of deplorables that you may have seen ranted about on Fox News. If anything, it saves its most savage barbs and skewers for the hard left. At the end of the day, it’s having fun upending expectations. Go in with an open mind and you’ll likely leave with an unlikely smile on your face.

Be sure to check out The Hunt, in theaters everywhere on Friday!

(Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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