Film And Movies

What Went Wrong With… The Hunt (2020)?

A review of The Hunt 2020

There’s nothing worse than a satire that misses the mark. The Hunt is exactly that; a confused film that takes the recognisable premise of man hunting man (from movies such as The Most Dangerous Game and The Beast Must Die) and adds some so-called political commentary into the mix. Writer Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof insert a “contemporary” topic of right-wing versus left, red state versus blue, or more accurately “liberal elites” versus “deplorables”, a subject that might have been relevant or something worth satirising approximately four years ago. Pizzagate (another four-year-old story) is also referenced in this flick (instead of “Pizzagate” we’re told about “Manorgate” which sounds even dumber than the actual conspiracy). These Hilary-Clinton-slur and conspiracy-theory-references seem very late in the day, maybe because The Hunt‘s original release date was put on hold because of the El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio shootings. But hold on… that would have meant a release in September 2019… but that’s still not 2016. There’s no point in blaming terrorists and/or wussy Hollywood for this film’s shortcomings, even if these mass shootings hadn’t occurred, the plot would still be irrelevant. This delay could of course, have added to the film’s commentary (how dare the liberal elites of Hollywood hold our film back!) but no, The Hunt isn’t that intelligent.

What’s humorous about the lead-up to the release of this movie, is that some people on the right (namely Donald Trump and Fox News) saw this film as liberals killing Trump supporters and took offence. Some of the left-wing on the other hand, saw it as pro-right and anti-liberal although these opinions were gleaned from viewing the trailer rather than the finished film. Whilst on this topic, the UK version of the trailer seems to have removed the word “liberal” from the line “every year these liberal elites kidnap a bunch of normal folk like us and hunt us for sport” either because our elites are on the right of the political divide or because the promoters assume everyone going to the cinema are lefties and they don’t want to put them off. Who knows, either way, I think we’re now putting too much credibility the film-maker’s way. Who’s gonna get offended by a Blumhouse B-movie?

The Hunt posterSomeone needs to tell Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof that controversy is a by-product of having an opinion or making personal art, you don’t set out to be “controversial” for the sake of it; that rarely works. The controversy and backlash that a film like Joker received was because it had something to say, but The Hunt isn’t daring in any way shape or form; it yearns for that kind of criticism and promotion but it doesn’t deserve it. The Hunt‘s latest poster for instance, features various media outlets’ and journalist’s quotes about the film but seriously, have you heard anything about this picture at all? Not just negative, I mean anything at all? The poster reads “The most talked about movie of the year is one that no one’s actually seen… decide for yourself”. Well I have decided for myself… it’s garbage. The Hunt isn’t Network (saying something worthwhile about society) and it isn’t some kind of Michael Dudikoff action movie either (where you don’t care about what’s being sold or told to you). This film thinks it’s ever-so deep and meaningful but it’s a wannabe; it’s a wannabe scornful, wannabe scathing commentary on society but: a. it’s references are too late b. it’s so poorly constructed that the message is either confused or non-existent and c. it’s so inoffensive that both sides will just be turned off by it.

Directed by Craig Zobel (nope, me neither) the film doesn’t even look or feel distinctive. There’s a scene in which the main protagonist creates a compass from a leaf, a hair pin, and static, which I remember from The Edge. Coupled with the wishy-washy writing from Lindelof and Cuse, the finished film doesn’t come across as intended (which I assume is in-your-face and daring). I mean if this was a take on right versus left on social media, where’s all the offensive slurs? The Hunt‘s best disses are “fucking red-neck!” followed by “you fucking snowflake!” followed by “hick!”. Basically contrived yet inoffensive buzz-words that won’t get under anyone’s skin.

The Hunt isn’t sure what it wants to say: do the writers hate the left or the right? The “liberal elite” characters say things like “Ava DuVernay liked my post”, they mention “appropriation” when speaking about a kimono, there’s a quick quip about NPR radio and so-called white guilt, and let’s not forget the conrived and unrelated to the scene “for the record, climate change is real!”. There’s also the idiotic line (when speaking about the “deplorables”) “he probably uses the ‘N’ word”. Like it’s hard to find someone on the right of Twitter who doesn’t use that racial epithet. 🙄

The right-wing “deplorable” characters on the other hand, say things like “we’re gonna be on Hannity!”, one mentions “crisis actors”, and another speaks about their “constitutional right” saying “I own seven guns”. This last line is supposed to, I assume, make it seem like the right-wing own “too many” guns but that’s daft if you think about it. It’s like asking why you have two cars or four television sets… if you can you can, it doesn’t make you wrong. Until someone shoots up a school, who gives a fuck about the calibre and quantity of their weapons? But I digress.

The Hunt stars Betty Gilpin as the lead character Crystal and she is the only reason to watch this godforsaken thing. Betty gives a likeable but politically ambiguous performance which makes her protagonist character fun to watch but annoying to mull over after the credits roll. The movie trailer makes it seem like there’s a large cast but most of the characters get shot or blown-up within the first 15 minutes or so. Hilary Swank is hardly in it and Emma Roberts is in it even less than her. That being said, since the film stars a gaggle of nobodies, when they suddenly die it doesn’t have the Scream-Drew-Barrymore effect.

Apart from a humourous re-telling of Aesop’s “The Tortoise And The Hare” (changed to a jack rabbit and a box turtle here with the rabbit brandishing a hammer) there isn’t a single scene that stands out in my mind. Betty Gilpin telling us this warped-fable conjures-up better scenes in one’s head than on the screen for the entirety of the runtime. There is however, a pointless recalling of the jack rabbit during the finale and a needless “One Year Ago” backstory midway through which breaks-up the flow of the movie.

There’s also many contradictions; anti-gun liberals with guns, anti-conspiracy people who are part of a conspiracy (this is almost tackled in a conversation Gilpin has with Swank but it feels like an afterthought).

Also, according to many twats on the right (and that includes Bill Maher), there’s no such thing as a moderate Muslim so why include someone of Arabic descent in the liberal elite clique? If we’re generalising, most rich Arabs are right-wing but a deplorable Arab would have ruined the plot (if that was at all possible). One of the liberal characters might also be Latino, but I didn’t have my Hollywood colour chart handy so I’m unsure. Regardless of the make-up of the liberals in this movie, the conservatives are all white. But surely everyone knows being “right-wing” isn’t the sole domain of the white working classes from the southern or mid-western states? Go talk to a New York cop for proof. There’s lots of American-Latino, Afro-American, Jewish-American, and Italian-American right-wing people. Just look at all the ethnic minorities at the back of Trump at his rallies, are they not deplorable too?

What the film-makers don’t seem to understand is that the right and left are more nuanced than they give them credit for. I for example, would describe myself as far-left, and yet I completely approve of gun ownership so these one-dimensional digs don’t work. I mean if you’re gonna mock liberal inclusivity, make the liberal elites consist of every demographic; fat, thin, male, female, transgender, physically disabled, one black, one brown, one yellow, one red etc. That might get some liberals’ knickers in a twist… not mine, but more than they’ve managed to with this piss-poor script.

So what stance are the film-makers taking on all of this? Apparently none at all. The protagonist is a woman which would have been a liberal concept… back when Pizzagate was a thing. But then there’s illiberal ideas too: there’s stereotyping or demeaning of Hungary or Croatia or Russia or whatever other “backward” country the filmmakers think there could be human hunting taking place. Oh how unique (Hostel, ahem, ahem). There’s a military consultant bad-guy but he’s just doing someone a “favour” so that’s not a unique take on the military. And in the end, a right-leaning Afghan war hero saves the day! Yeah, how unique… not.

There’s supposed to be a surprise at the end; Crystal isn’t as “red-neck” as expected. She’s familiar with Ludwig Van Beethoven and George Orwell but since she’s incorrectly kidnapped because of a misspelling of her name, we’re unsure if she’s actually a “deplorable”. That being said, plenty of people from both sides of the political divide have read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The fact that Orwell was anti-communist, some of his writing appeals to people on the right because they wrongly conflate communism with socialism. Orwell’s books are even part of some school curriculums. Therefore, none of the revealing characteristics of Crystal are indicative of an “unusual” conservative. In a fight-scene during the finale, Gilpin’s character pokes Swank’s wound whilst saying “sorry, sorry” which is out of character for someone in the armed forces. This is much more unusual than someone from Mississippi knowing characters from an allegorical book.

And I guess the writers never heard of the right-wing elite? They must live very closeted and blinkered lives. Have they never heard of public schools in Britain or taken a look at parliament? Aren’t the likes of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Rupert Murdoch conservative elites? Not much to say about them 🧐. The irony that a film mocking the so-called liberal elites only got made because of (and heavily stars) a bunch of so-called liberal elites is probably lost on the film-makers, kinda like their point of view.

On a side note, with faux-liberals currently siding with the fake-liberal Joe Biden over the genuine-liberal Bernie Sanders in the Democratic leadership race, this film may serve as propaganda to demonise Vermont (location of Hilary Swank’s “Manor” and also Sanders’ senatorial state). Aside from this inadvertent (or intentional) filmic agitprop, The Hunt has no real purpose.

The Hunt can’t be mocking right-wing conspiracy theorists or right-wing conspiracies because here the “Manor-gate” conspiracy is true. The message I got from the film is that the right aren’t racist and in a huge group of “deplorables” only one is homophobic, and even this is conveyed in a blink and you’ll miss it photo referencing the Westboro Baptist Church’s “God Hates Fags” placards (a 14 year-old story …how relevant… not). The Hunt has no real stance, as far as I could tell. It’s not “both sides are as bad as each other”, it’s more “liberals are capable of elitism and extremism but the right are just misunderstood working class people”. God only knows how Fox News and President Trump saw this as a liberal movie.

The Hunt has elements of Hostel and Predators but it’s more accurately The Hunger Games meets The Purge meets an SNL sketch… not very scary and not particularly funny. It dreams of being witty and clever but in actuality it’s utter shite. This is a centrist’s idea of biting commentary but everybody else’s idea of boredom.

A Load Of Hunts.

Writing: 2/10

Directing: 2/10

Acting: 4/10

Overall: 4/10

1 reply »

  1. Like your articles, under quarantine, and felt like commenting as correspondence. Didn’t see the movie because it didn’t look good – looked like consumer art in the flavor of persecution complex and revenge porn. Maybe my position is too literal, but it seems to me that conservative ideology believes the status quo and tradition is a tried and true methodology for a functional society whereas liberals would engage in incremental process improvements to social problems within the current social structure by proposing and implementing novel, unproven but logical solutions. In this regard, it is personally difficult to read that someone touting ideology dating from the Russian revolution as a “true liberal” (not that the other candidate strikes me as particularly liberally minded). In your allusion to pizza gate, it seems the context shifted with the more recent complexities of Weinstein and Epstein. Thanks for taking the piss out of consumer art posing as fine art in the era of cybernetic popularity contests.

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