Directed by: Craig Zobel
Premise: A group of conservative citizens are abducted and wake up in a rural estate where they are hunted by wealthy liberals.
What Works: The premise of The Most Dangerous Game has been reworked a number of times in films like Hard Target and Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. It’s been reworked again for The Hunt and the picture generally succeeds in what it is intended to do. The Most Dangerous Game premise is outlandish and the filmmakers of The Hunt embrace the inherent absurdity. The movie mixes action and humor and both are vicious. The screenplay, written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, is in touch with this particular cultural moment in a way that makes The Hunt a signifying film of the Trump era. But the political content is mostly window dressing on what is fundamentally a survival story. Its message may not be deep but the politics do not get in the way of the film’s imperative to entertain and The Hunt never feels as though it is lecturing us. The fun of a manhunt story like this is in the ways the hunted and hunters outmaneuver each other. This is done pretty well. The action of The Hunt is mostly credible which grounds the bizarre and implausible aspects of the movie’s conceit. The set pieces are never too outrageous but they also contain an element of comedy that punches up the energy. The picture is fast moving with the characters constantly on the go and generally making intelligent decisions. Actress Betty Gilpin leads the film as a woman with a military background who applies her skills. Gilpin plays this really well. She’s cool but there is a rage and fear underneath her performance that makes her character believable and empathetic. This makes the audience want to see her character survive.
What Doesn’t: The Hunt became a political football because of some misrepresentations of the film by politicians and commentators. The movie is lightweight and silly in a way that doesn’t quite match the political rancor over it. It certainly isn’t about inciting violence against conservative citizens; The Hunt suggests the opposite. The controversy of The Hunt is somewhat ironic because the movie does not have much to say. If anything, this movie is a warning to liberal and leftist reactionaries who risk becoming the caricature that the rightwing media establishment claims them to be. The movie literalizes a social media pile on—the metaphorical intentions are made very clear—but it is a simplistic message that trivializes real politically motivated violence.
DVD extras: Featurettes.
Bottom Line: The Hunt is a frequently bonkers action picture with some political messaging. It is primarily the former and much less the latter but The Hunt succeeds as a dark comedy.
Episode: #825 (November 1, 2020)