Saturday, June 20, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Hunt

The Hunt
directed by Craig Zobel
This is another film that (a) had a female lead and (b) had its debut delayed and possibly ruined by the emergence of the coronovirus pandemic and (c) was seized upon by some conservatives, especially the dummy-in-chief, who thought it unfairly demonized them.

This last point is almost too stupid to comment upon but it's worth mentioning that this movie is in part a satire of fraught relationships between conservatives and liberals. The Hunt doesn't actually endorse kidnapping your political enemies and hunting them for fun anymore than the Godfather movies suggest to people that they should build a multi-generational international criminal empire. Given some recent real life incidents one might even argue that this satire doesn't go far enough.

If you have to explain satire, you've likely already lost half the audience. Much as Blazing Saddles used jokes about racism, anti-semitism, and stereotypes in general to suggest that those things were, you know, actually harmful to human beings, The Hunt uses political and regional stereotypes to suggest that sometimes conservatives and liberals share negative traits. This could be read as a both sides cop out. One film writer said as much.

But some people are intolerant regardless of their politics. Often if people are nasty SOB's when they are on the left (right), they will be nasty SOB's when they move to the right (left). 

This movie primarily satirizes successful upper class or wealthy liberals who fret over gender pronoun usage, cultural appropriation, and toxic masculinity. The film also takes some shots (snicker) at the deplorables who think that their Bible and their guns provide all the answers. 

Eleven people wake up in a field. They've all been gagged with pony bridles. There's a red velvet lined black box in the field. The box has weapons and keys. It's not BDSM sex that the group's unseen kidnappers want. It's their lives. 

Half of the group is immediately killed by rifle shots, mines and traps. Comparing notes, the survivors believe they are victims of a conspiracy they call Manorgate, in which wealthy liberal elitists kidnap and hunt conservatives. They think they're in Arkansas.


One woman who escapes the field is Crystal Creasey (Betty Gilpin), an auto rental shop worker from Mississippi.

Crystal processes information more quickly than many people; she doesn't spend time panicking or feeling sorry for herself. Crystal is perceptive and very resourceful. Crystal could have these traits because she is an Afghan War vet. 

Or Crystal might have those traits because she's not mentally well and hasn't been for a while, as she strongly hints. Crystal's facial expressions and tuneless humming before she goes off could indicate that she's been thru some bad experiences and can dissociate herself from horrific violence. Taciturn and pragmatic, Crystal is someone you want watching your back in a crisis.

Unfortunately Gilpin was the only great thing about this film, with the possible exception of Hillary Swank as Athena Stone, the smug kidnapper leader. The writing is not strong or smart enough to explain or even handwave away all the story inconsistencies and mixed motivations. So often it just goes for the gore. And there is gore aplenty. 

If you are curious about this latest version of The Most Dangerous Game, go for it. Wayne DuvallEmma RobertsGlenn Howerton, and Ike Barinholtz all have roles. I think that the writers' and director's real targets were not liberals or conservatives but rather anyone who has participated in online outrage.
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