America is, to state the obvious, incredibly divided, with tensions running high from coast to coast, as evidenced in the recent protests and riots inspired by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. And with the heat of November’s national elections likely to bring those tensions to an even higher boil, it’s not surprising that Universal Pictures opted to take advantage of controversy by releasing the film The Hunt this year.
Actually, the film was scheduled to be released last year, in late September, until its premise—blue-collar Trump fans being hunted and killed by liberal elites—stirred so much controversy that even President Trump tweeted about it. With a firestorm of negative attention hanging over the film, its release was postponed until March, where it came out on the last weekend that the nation’s movie theaters were open before the Covid-19 lockdown. The film was available digitally a week after its theatrical release, airing via streaming services, and has been a steady success since.
Branding itself as a “sly satire” that takes our nation’s political divide to radical extremes, The Hunt follows a ragtag group of a dozen Trump supporters—strangers from around the U.S.—who find that they’ve been drugged, kidnapped, and flown on a private jet to an open field in the middle of nowhere with a crateful of weapons at their disposal.
They quickly discover the reason behind their bizarre circumstances: a group of wealthy liberal elites have paid top dollar to hunt and kill them like animals, and they’re expected to raise the stakes by fighting back. Surprisingly, most of the Trump-loving targets are killed within minutes, in incredibly graphic fashion that’s played for intended dark laughs—but are too disturbing to be funny, with heads exploding from bullets, a gouged eyeball that’s ripped out of its skull in graphic fashion, and a woman who is blown into halves before mercy-killing herself with a gun.
Soon, only one of the hunted is left: a feisty former soldier named Crystal (Betty Gilpin), who quickly turns the tables by killing off many of the people hunting her, while also unraveling the mystery of why this is happening. All of this might sound fairly entertaining, but the film is sloppily written, with many of the revelations happening randomly, and a last half-hour in which a sudden series of flashbacks try to explain everything but lack enough motivation to make sense.
Considering the amount of controversy and attention it generated, The Hunt proves to be much too slipshod to work as effective satire. This is a film that has no core and doesn’t know what it wants to be. And, bizarrely, the movie takes the side of Trump-loving Becky, with the villains being the cartoonishly portrayed elites, so one wonders how this ever sparked outrage from the political right in the first place.
The cast is composed mostly of unknowns such as Gilpin or somewhat-popular actors including Ike Barinholtz and Emma Roberts, both of whom are quickly killed off. The biggest name is two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, who plays the mysterious woman behind the hunt, though the explanation of her motives is so poorly done that even that seemingly important role is really a waste of her time.
In a sane world, The Hunt would quickly become a forgotten footnote of our times. Regardless of the fact that it turns the tables on expectations of its message, it really is bad for the soul no matter what your political views.
Featuring some of the most graphic violence I’ve ever seen put on a mainstream movie screen (it is rated “R” for strong violence and language) and then playing it for laughs, this is a sad example of filmmakers who have little if any respect for human life. When Becky gets her chances at revenge and escape, she is as ruthless and heartless in her quest as the liberals who struck first.
It all comes down to rendering human life as no better than raw meat to be treated without any respect or care. And that sad fact makes The Hunt a most dangerous game that is not worth playing by anyone.