The Hunt

The Hunt ★★

There are two ways you can go with a film like The Hunt - one is to make it more character based, try to ground it in some sort of realism, and the other is to go broad, make it a cartoon of sorts, lean into the surreal aspects and focus on the commentary of the situation. For the first thirty minutes or so (not coincidentally, probably the film's strongest part), as the storyline jumps from character to character and there's a focus on setting up the situation and portraying mayhem episodically, it's unclear which side the film is going to come down on - then, during a prolonged sequence of events at a gas station convenience store, it locks onto the main character for the rest of the film (Betty Gilpin) and makes the rest of the story about her journey, finding out who the people who tried to kill her (and a bunch of other 'deplorables') are, and knock them off. Two problems - one is that, as the film opens up, it loses focus - trying to cover a bunch of political issues rather than just focus on the snipe hunt/hunting humans for sport thing -so we get shoehorned references to climate change, refugees, gun rights, etc etc, until the film spirals into incoherence (the reveals of the last twenty minutes are supposed to be some sort of ironic statement about making our own monsters, I think, but mostly they just come off as a damp squib emphasizing the film's lack of relation to the real world). The second problem is that there's not really anyone to root for as a character, given the messiness of the film's parable. Headed by Hillary Swank, the hunters here are a bunch of incompetent dorks, and the victims are unsympathetic but not THAT unsympathetic, if you get me. (Headed by Betty Gilpin, in a genuinely weird lead performance) - there are two ways to approach the scenario- unfortunately, for whatever reasons, the filmmakers chose option B- where only the primary protagonist and antagonist seem capable of competent actions and rational decisions, and everyone else makes stupid mistake after stupid mistake before being dispatched. The end result is a film that's sort of watchable in a pulpy cartoon way, but it's not particularly interesting, either as survival horror or as any sort of political statement. The fact that it was temporarily pulled due to a Fox-News-stoked outcry over the trailer is just another level of irony on the sundae, so to speak.

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