Delayed by six months following the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, and Donald Trump’s (unfounded) criticism of the film as one “made in order to inflame and cause chaos”, The Hunt arrives on a wave on controversy.
But the most eye-opening thing about the film they didn’t want you to see is just how little it has to say, clumsily caricaturing both sides of America’s political divide while failing to make a coherent point of its own.
Yet another spin on Richard Connell’s classic short story The Most Dangerous Game – this time with post-Trump political relevance – it sees 12 ‘ordinary’ (read: conservative) Americans kidnapped by an odious cabal of wealthy liberals who drop them in a remote field with a rack of firearms before declaring open season and hunting them down. Many meet swift ends, but Betty Gilpin’s Crystal proves more resourceful, fighting her way to Hilary Swank’s top dog Athena.
With tongue firmly in cheek, everything in The Hunt is dialled up to eleven to mirror these extreme political times. Much is so outlandish (one character finds the time to call another a ‘snowflake’ after being impaled, then blown in half) that it feels like one of the spoof movies from Grindhouse or Tropic Thunder. Even accepting the freedom this approach allows, logic is still in frustratingly short supply. Why, for example, arm their quarry with weapons in the first place?
It makes Blumhouse stablemate The Purge – which covers similar ground to The Hunt – appear nuanced and layered with complexity compared to the blunt-force approach here. And, hot off HBO’s Watchmen, which held a mirror to society in daring and profound ways, Damon Lindelof delivers a script (co-written with Nick Cuse) that’s disappointingly straightforward, refusing to wrestle with obvious targets like gun violence. At under 90 minutes, it feels like much has been left on the cutting-room floor.
A late fight scene is staged with verve, and Gilpin is good value in an underwritten role. But given the politically fractious times we live in, this inane satire is a colossal missed opportunity.