Movie Review: The Hunt (2020)

The Hollywood shuffle continues this morning with news that Lionsgate has pulled ANTEBELLUM, the new Janelle Monáe thriller, from its schedule. The film was supposed to be released in the US next week (and here in Hong Kong on April 30th) but it’s now in limbo along with Chris Rock’s SAW and Sarah Paulson’s RUN. Meanwhile, Disney announced a few hours ago that BLACK WIDOW has been taken off the calendar as well. That film was also supposed to be released on April 30th here in Hong Kong.

All these changes have put pressure on Hong Kong’s distributors to scramble and find new films to fill our cinema screens. Opening here today is THE HUNT, the “most talked about movie of the year… nobody’s seen yet”, according to Universal Pictures’ press statement. The film was originally supposed to open in the US back in September but Universal pulled its release after a certain very stable genius complained that the film, without mentioning it by name, was intended “to inflame and cause chaos.” This came two days after the studio had already decided to suspend the film’s promotional campaign following mass shootings in Ohio and Texas. THE HUNT finally opened last week in the US but word came out yesterday that it will move to online rental platforms starting on Friday, March 20th, because so many cinemas in the US have closed due to the coronavirus.

THE HUNT tells the story of 12 strangers who wake up to find out that they’ve been chosen to be hunted for sport by a group of wealthy elites. The strangers all come from… well, let’s say that most of them come from American states that voted for that aforementioned stable genius, whose name is not mentioned in the film. As both they and we come to learn, they weren’t picked just because of where they live. They were picked because of their outspoken conservative views. The game starts off swimmingly well for the elites but it soon goes pear-shaped when Crystal (Betty Gilpin, TV’s GLOW and NURSE JACKIE), one of the hunted, decides to fight back.

Need it be said that the very stable genius doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Had he seen the film, he would have realised that THE HUNT is not as one-sided as he thinks it is. The story, by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse (TV’s WATCHMEN), takes more than a few swipes at both the blue and the red teams. I didn’t keep score but I’d even go so far as saying that the reds come out ahead in the end.

THE HUNT is an absolute hoot, assuming you’re up on the current state of American politics. If, however, the concept of “blue” and “red” is a mystery to you, don’t bother watching the film because you won’t understand the humour. At my press screening, my colleagues – a Mexican, a Brit and a fellow Canadian – and I were the only ones laughing. The locals just didn’t get it. Sure, you can still watch the film and possibly find pleasure in seeing people getting killed in the most gruesome of ways but the putdowns really are the best part. Unfortunately, as wickedly enjoyable as it is, THE HUNT’s lack of subtlety is its weakness. Universal would like to have audiences believe that the film is on par with other recent social comedy-thrillers like GET OUT and US, but when the lights come up, no post-film analysis will be needed. Audiences – specifically the ones who understand the humour – will get the message that both sides aren’t as different as they like to think they are. Sadly, the world today is full of political leaders who seek to divide rather than unite.

Gilpin is wonderful as Crystal, who is a modern-day Sarah Connor. From the film’s outset, you quickly understand that she is someone you don’t mess around with. Neither is Athena (two-time Oscar® winner Hilary Swank, LOGAN LUCKY; MILLION DOLLAR BABY), who is the mastermind behind this deadly game. The film also features a number of familiar faces from TV including Glenn Howerton (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA), Ike Barinholtz (THE MINDY PROJECT), Emma Roberts (AMERICAN HORROR STORY), Justin Hartley (THIS IS US), and Ethan Suplee (MY NAME IS EARL), but relative fame doesn’t carry much weight here as everyone eventually gets caught in someone else’s crosshairs.

THE HUNT offers a welcome respite from the daily dose of despair we all seem to be getting lately. If your cinemas are still open, it’s worth making the trek to see it there as long as you’re wearing a face mask when you do. If not, then definitely check it out online starting on Friday.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, March 20th, 8:30 am HK time!

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