This is the film we’ve waited an extra six months to see. There’ll be more this year, but for different reasons. In the case of The Hunt, it was pulled from the schedules when its release coincided with two mass shootings in the USA and, at the time, it seemed destined never to see the light of day. But six months can be a long time in the film industry, let alone politics …..
As the world focusses on another major issue – a mention of hand sanitizer got a laugh that the film’s makers could never have envisaged six days ago, let alone six months! – we’re presented with our third Blumhouse film in as many weeks. Following hard on the heels of Leigh Whannell’s impressive The Invisible Man and the less successful Fantasy Island, The Hunt is a very different offering – a chase movie, for sure, but one that has other things on its mind and will inevitably polarise audiences.
The essential idea is simple. A group of people wake up in a forest with locked gags around their mouths. They’ve no idea how they got there, where they are, or who each other is, but they’re soon under attack – guns, traps and every which way. Who’s behind it all and why is completely unknown, but they find ways of fighting back and attempting to escape, some more ingenious – and more bloody – than others. At the risk of spoiling the narrative, let’s leave the plot there and just add that the majority of the action features on one character, a real kick-ass called Crystal (played with dead eyed assurance by Betty Gilpin).
Director Craig Zobel is giving us more than just a chase movie. His intention is for this to be a satire, one with two targets each treated with equal contempt. The extreme right and the extreme left, and he shows us the worst of both with unfiltered relish while having a complete ball exaggerating everything up to the hilt and doing so very knowingly. That means the film is silly to the point of downright bonkers as well as being extremely violent and bloody, but it’s also equally entertaining. The one thing you don’t expect is for it to be funny. And it is. Very.
It won’t be to everybody’s taste. Not just because of the bloodbath but there’s a built-in discomfort which means taht, somewhere along the line, you’ll feel personally under attack and it’s more successful in doing that than making its satirical points. The necessary sharpness is lacking, making it a sledgehammer of a film. Subtle it ain’t. But it does have a total star in Gilpin – cold blooded, determined and in such a physical performance you wonder why she hasn’t been given an action franchise of her own. She is made for it – steely eyes, deadpan face, flat southern drawl and athleticism par excellence.
Is it entertaining? Hell, yeah! Laughter, groans and winces – they’re all there. Does it work as a satire? Not so well: it’s blunted by having more than one target. Is it an easy watch? Frequently not – partly because of the blood and gore, but also how it makes you feel about your own political affiliations. Should you see it? Definitely. Then you can form your own opinion – and argue to your heart’s content about it, preferably over a grilled cheese sandwich. But nobody will disagree about Betty Gilpin.
Adventure, Thriller, Horror, Action | Cert: 15 | Universal | UK, 11 March 2020 | Dir. Craig Zobel | Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Hilary Swank, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Amy Madigan.