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Film Review: “The Hunt” Is Bloody, Goofy Fun Admist Overdone Controversy

Written by: Patrick Howard | March 12th, 2020

Film poster: “The Hunt”

The Hunt (Craig Zobel, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.

When the first trailer of The Hunt dropped around the end of the 2019 summer, it didn’t take long for the sparks of online controversy to swarm into an uncontrollable fury. With the depiction of bloody violence à la The Most Dangerous Game towards “deplorable” conservatives, as one character in the trailer puts it, against the backdrop of last year’s shooting massacres in Ohio and Texas, Universal Studios understandably pushed The Hunt forward from September of 2019 to March of 2020. With the new release date drawing near, Universal Studios is now utilizing said controversy to crank up those ticket sales. Was this movie worth the heated discourse and endless pages of online think pieces?

The Hunt stars Betty Gilpin and a handful of other recognizable names like Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, and Ike Barinholtz. Gilpin and 11 other people wake up to the disturbing realization that they’ve been kidnapped and left seemingly for dead in a fenced-in game preserve in an undisclosed location. It’s not until a few of these strangers are picked off one by one by gun-toting figures from afar that Gilpin starts to suspect that she’s partaking in “The Hunt,” an event once thought to be a hoax where liberal elitists kidnap conservatives and kill them for sport.

The main piece of advice I would offer to anyone thinking of seeing The Hunt is this: loosen up a bit. Yes, the film tackles sensitive, political material regarding liberals and conservatives, but it knows the subjects and individuals it wants to mercilessly satirize, and proceeds with a great deal of pulp and a mischievous little smirk. It does its best to fairly knock the extreme facets of both liberalism and conservatism down several pegs. Truthfully, there’s no character in the film that isn’t problematic in their own unique way. 

Betty Gilpin in THE HUNT ©Universal Studios

Though she has already garnered popularity with her role in the hit Netflix show GLOW, Betty Gilpin is a full-blown star in The Hunt. Her character, Crystal, is the kind of role an actor dreams of landing one day in their career. Give the credit to her experience with the wrestling physicality of GLOWor something, but Gilpin drops into these explosion-filled action scenes like a seasoned professional. If the political satire and the over-the-top hate-filled rhetoric spewed by some of the characters don’t groove with your sensibilities, then the final confrontation between Gilpin and Hilary Swank’s elitist, Athena, is well worth the large chunk of change you’ll put down for a ticket. 

The Hunt is another recent controversial film that was never worth the discourse it sowed from the internet. Remember when James Franco and Seth Rogen’s North Korea-centric comedy The Interview caused a superficial ripple in the pot of global politics, only for it to be as mediocre as expected? Well, apply a similar scenario here, but have the movie turn out to be a bloody good time instead. The Hunt entertains with well-produced action and bloody gore while peppering in some insightful political and social satire to get its audiences to think after the show. 

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Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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