Director: Craig Zobel | Runtime: 1h 30mins | Action, Thriller
11 strangers are drugged and taken to a remote location. When they wake up, they have to fight for their lives as unknown assailants hunt them for unknown reasons.
The problem with sitting so idly on the fence in a film is that the product suffers in the process. This is the exact problem The Hunt, trying to be ultra-violent, satirical and unique all at the same time while never really excelling in any of them. It’s trying to give you commentary on how the elitists treat and view the lower classes, while also giving into stereotypes of the people it’s trying to portray. The movie’s incessant need to be overly talky about class and social insensitivity lead you to believe it’s a film that has something to say, but The Hunt really isn’t as smart as it first appears.
The film’s beginning leads you to believe that Emma Roberts is going to take the helm as our protagonist, but when a bullet explodes her head the momentum changes and we get a bizarre sequence of main character set up. In the mix is Smallville (2006-2011) and This is Us’ (2016-2020) Justin Hartley, Suicide Squad’s (2016) Ike Barinholtz and even My Name is Earl’s (2005-2009) Ethan Suplee. It’s a who’s who of “What have they been in?”, and while the trick does work, it really isn’t as impressive as the film might think. In the end we are just waiting for some kind of consistency.
The film does eventually stick with Glow‘s (2017-) Betty Gilpin, who is by far the strongest part of the film. Her stoic and annoyed responses help every scene become somewhat entertaining. She glides from funny to badass with ease, and she carries the film until the very end. As well as Gilpin the film does flex some strong action, the final fight involving the lead and Hilary Swank’s one dimensional villain is particularly good. Rather than blow chunks of blood across the scene it goes for quick hand-to-hand combat which is beautifully choreographed. But by this point in the movie the exhaustion is a little too much.
After all the violence and forced humour its the commentary that suffers. It makes it clear that the elites are bad people, sitting in their bunker armoured to the brim with guns and a false sense of social awareness, but it doesn’t really paint the hunted as good people either. The film’s screenplay comes from Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, both of whom created and worked on The Leftovers (2014-2017) which is one of the most hypnotic and enthralling shows you’ll see thanks to it’s ambiguity. So it’s even more devastating to watch The Hunt and realise it has as much subtlety and grace as a bull in a china shop.
For all it’s terrible humour and lack of subtlety, one thing that’s infinitely clear is that The Hunt is nowhere near as smart as it thinks. Every time the commentary seems like it’s going somewhere it’s interrupted by gratuitous violence, and when the action starts to find it’s feet near the end it’s already too late. The Hunt is trying to balance a lot at once, but it doesn’t succeed at any of it.