The Hunt

A text chat discusses hunting ‘deplorables’ at ‘The Manor,’ eliciting both laughter and caution. Richard (Glenn Howerton, "The Strangers") makes ridiculous demands of a private plane’s flight attendant (Hannah Alline) before her eyes go wide, a man in a plaid flannel shirt stumbling into the cabin frothing at the mouth. A woman (Emma Roberts) wakes up in a field, a bit gag padlocked onto her head. She is one of twelve about to learn that a right wing conspiracy, Manor Gate, is real in “The Hunt.”

Laura's Review: C+

The movie that was famously yanked from release last year after its trailer incited controversy after the El Paso shooting, Trump chiming in about a liberal racist Hollywood, is seemingly cursed, finally unveiling right into the maw of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two things everyone should know about the film. Firstly, it isn’t the movie its trailer or 45 suggested it was, rather a survivalist horror satire skewering the worst elements of both sides of U.S. political divide. Secondly, that said, it is more popcorn entertainment with some gore ladled on than a serious attempt to get people thinking, writers Nick Cuse & Damon Lindelof (HBO's 'The Leftovers,' 'Watchmen') inconsistent in the political motivation and economic class divide of their twist on the 'Most Dangerous Game.' “The Hunt” is a series shock kills leading to its climactic female mano a mano showdown with a few throwaway laughs along the way.

No sooner has Roberts observed a woman gagged like herself (Betty Gilpin, "Isn't It Romantic," TV's 'GLOW') than she notes a giant crate in the middle of the field, a crowbar propped against one end. As panicked people flee, expecting the worst, it is opened, first to eject a live, costumed pig, then to reveal a full trove of weaponry and the keys to everyone’s padlocked gags (So why include them to begin with? When we saw these people being transported in the private plane’s hold, they were not gagged.). As they free themselves, they come under fire, Roberts shown how to shoot by a man with a rifle ('This Is Us's' Justin Hartley).

One of the most surprising elements of the film is its readiness to take out famous faces among its cast of television stars (the exception, two time Oscar winner Hillary Swank, is kept under wraps until the climax, heard, but not seen, before then). As the redneck victims numbers decrease, Staten Island (Ike Barinholtz) leads a group of three to a gas station for help, but it’s easy enough to guess that owners Ma (Amy Madigan) and Pop (Reed Birney) are not what they seem. Eventually Crystal (Gilpin) emerges as the toughest and smartest of the lot. She also resists the type of ‘deplorable’ rhetoric displayed by the likes of Gary (Ethan Suplee) when they run into terrified Middle Eastern refugees. So just who is she? The filmmakers themselves appear to be unsure.

Director Craig Zobel ("Great World of Sound," "Compliance") has crafted a slick production for what would have been a drive-in feature fifty years ago. With some additional effort this could have been much more. While a clever idea, the film’s ‘conspiracy theory turned reality’ hook makes little sense in execution, its ‘liberal elites’ ditching some of the very traits they are known for in order for it to work.

Robin's Review: C+

A group of privileged and filthy rich individuals gather to discuss their latest project. Dissolve to a woods and field where a dozen people awake to find they are gagged. In the middle of the field is a large crate. As they investigate the box full of guns, they are taken out one by one in “The Hunt.”

I learned, after seeing “The Hunt,” that it was “loosely” adapted from the 1924 short story by Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game, which was the source for one of my favorite movies, 1932’s also titled “The Most Dangerous Game.” And, I can see, vaguely, the source material in this latest adaptation. The difference is, the subtly and psychology of the ’32 film and its focal hunt has been replaced by a bloodbath of various victims offed by various violent means.

Betty Gilpin is first among equals as on of the dozen. But, unlike the others being taken out one at a time, Crystal is a force unto herself and is the wrench thrown into the works of the elites’ plan. What starts out as a cat and mouse game with the cat holding all the cards slowly turns so that Crystal becomes the mouse that ROARED. Gilpin handles the copious physical action quite well but, throughout the movie, she wears a grimace, like a teen age girl trying to hide her braces.

The rest of the cast are mainly just fodder for the multiple mayhems that take place, including stepping on land mines, having a live grenade stuck down one hunter’s pants, many gunshot deaths, and one with a bow and arrow, It feels more like an installment of “The Purge” but with both sides decimated. Hillary Swank, on top of the bill, seems to be there for just for the name of the two-time best actress Oscar winner.