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After months of controversy and an eventual release stymied by the coronavirus pandemic, it is almost a little disappointing to say that The Hunt is merely a serviceable thriller with some clever ideas and solid moments of dark comedy. The script, co-authored by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, takes the South Park approach of skewering both sides of its established political divide, painting the liberal elites conducting the hunt as a sort of aloof thought police intent on extreme political correctness, and the dyed in the wool conservatives they are hunting as backwoods bigots who still cling to conspiracy theories and xenophobia even as their lives are in danger. By attacking both sides so relentlessly, the satire never seems like it is driving at a specific point about either one. There are also some twists toward the end that undercut the effectiveness of this “bothsidesism” to some degree. But where the satire turns out messy, the action sequences are consistently engaging and feature several heightened, fist pump-worthy moments that would have been fun to watch in a packed auditorium. These sequences also get an assist from well-utilized macabre humor, which helps the film to avoid the pitfall of taking itself too seriously a la fellow low budget Blumhouse horror thrillers in the Purge franchise. As the heroine, Betty Gilpin is surprisingly effective; I have greatly enjoyed her work in GLOW, but I could not have predicted how well she slips into action heroine mode here. Gilpin carries most of the film, as other actors are largely on hand just for brief appearances to allow her character’s story to advance in one way or another; the highlight of these small parts is Hilary Swank, who sinks her teeth into her role as the big bad and makes the most of her limited screentime. By the end of The Hunt, I found myself surprised by just how much the film’s premise and messaging has been blown out of proportion; it is ultimately not saying much about either side that a viewer could not already surmise from well-known stereotypes (and though it treats the conservative prey more sympathetically, it also does not shy away from acknowledging their less savory perspectives), and it is never nearly as interested in advancing a message as it is in making a mockery of its characters. Taken at face value, it’s an enjoyable film – even if its attempts to venture outside the box are not as sharp as they could be.

 

B

 

Stray Thoughts (here be the spoilers):
- I know the quick deaths of recognizable stars like Emma Roberts and Ike Barinholtz are supposed to be shocking, but the fact that they're only in a sliver of any of the film's promotional material spells out the fact that they're not going to last long.

 

- While it's cool to see Betty Gilpin put Hilary Swank's Athena in her place for getting the wrong Crystal, that twist also somewhat undercuts possible nuances in political messaging. Making Crystal a presumably neutral person is a bit of a cop-out, especially when it seems like the film *could* be going an interesting direction when we only hear a snippet of the other Crystal's post; the fact that it's cut-off mid-sentence suggested the possibility that perhaps Crystal was making a valid call-out of Athena for indirectly killing people through her line of work (which I don't recall being identified outside of a vague business veneer), but of course that's not ultimately the direction the film opts to follow. Athena still selects Crystal out of a sense of hurt pride, but it would have been a more interesting narrative choice to have a measured conservative issue valid criticism of a liberal who sees her every action being above reproach because of her perceived moral compass on other issues. Alas, the film just has the real Crystal say something dumb and our two enemies then duke it out to the death, but said dukeing to the death is a lot of fun to watch.

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A film I really enjoyed! Liked the main character and thought Hillary Swank was some fun to watch as the villain! Lots of unique George Orwell references! And kinda ballsy for today’s cinema, this would be the type film I’d feel like would be perfect to see in a drive-in screen and I mean that in a good way! Very good one!

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