‘THE Hunt’ is an action-thriller that really works and it could have been a blockbuster but it was one of the movies that suffered in the box office (the others are “Bloodshot” and the inspirational Christian love story “I Still Believe”) when they were released just before the corona pandemic that closed down movie theaters worldwide in mid-March. They’ve released it on DVD and it’s an action thriller that will remind you of “The Most Dangerous Game” and “Escape Room”, where random strangers are assembled in one place and then mysteriously killed one by one.
The film actually became quite controversial before its release as there are folks who said it’s a satire between right wing and left wing Americans. No less than Pres. Trump twitted about it in August saying it’s “racist” and “made to inflame and cause chaos”. We think they’re reading too much as we see the movie as nothing but an actioner where the hero and the villain are both kick ass females.
The movie starts with a woman communicating via laptop about a coming hunt involving what she calls “deplorables”. Her face is not shown and, in the next scene, we see her again (only her backside) inside an airplane secretly killing a man who staggers on the aisle and scaring passengers.
In the next scene, we see Emma Roberts waking up in a clearing not knowing where she is, with her mouth gagged with a huge padlock wrapped around her head. She sees other people who are gagged like her waking up around her. They were all kidnapped from various states of the U.S. and brought to this unknown location.
You’d think Emma is the film’s lead character since she’s a name actress, but some unseen snipers start shooting at them and Emma’s brains are quickly blown up in a matter of minutes. Five people are quickly killed while three of them get to escape and reach a gas station.
The elderly couple behind the store counter tell them they’re in Arkansas and they, too, are quickly eliminated by the old people who turn out to be part of a conspiracy. A man and a woman also get to the gas station to be their next victims, but the woman, Crystal (Betty Gilpin, who we first noticed as the negligent mom in “A Dog’s Journey” and one of the female wrestlers in “Glow”), is astute enough to detect that the old couple are bad guys conniving with their secret enemy.
Crystal turns out to be an army veteran in the war in Afghanistan and she soon figures out that they’re in Croatia. She manages to single-handedly kill most of their oppressors and locate their leader to personally confront her. This is Athena (Hilary Swank), the mysterious and filthy rich woman we see in the film’s opening sequences whose face was not shown on cam.
If you enjoy violence, then you would have a field day watching the blood bath in this movie that belongs to the same genre as the movies “Mayhem” and “Ready or Not” that are both full of graphic violence and over-the-top gore. At first, you don’t expect that any of the targets being hunted will be able to turn the table on the hunters that want to kill them.
Things seem to be going according to their plan, but this will not be an exciting movie unless one of the prospective victims defies all of them, survives and succeeds in hunting down and killing all the hunters themselves, including their leader.
And since this is from the home of horror flicks, Blumhouse, they manage to find unique ways of killing people, from landmines and poisoned donuts to bow and arrow and, of course, guns, which are all part and parcel of the horror genre.
Director Craig Zobel also succeeds to give it a fresh feel that somehow gets to incorporate comedic elements and mix it with traditional horror/action elements in a better way than in another similar exploitation flick of this sort, “Fantasy Island”.
The movie works because Betty Gilpin certainly fills the bill as a never-say-die military veteran who is a force to reckon with as Crystal, the heroine. We enjoyed her performance as the wayward daughter in law of Dennis Quaid in “A Dog’s Journey” but she’s even better here as the mouse that roared in the cat-and-mouse game she played with their hunters, handling all her action scenes convincingly.
Hilary Swank won the Oscar twice, first as an oppressed lesbian in “Boys Don’t Cry” and as an underdog amateur female boxer in “Million Dollar Baby”. This time, she plays the bad ass go-getting filthy rich corporate shark who uses a thousand dollar stiletto heel as a deadly weapon. Hilary is the best example that an Oscar award won’t help you to be an A-lister in Hollywood. She may have won two best actress awards but she’s never really considered to be a big box office star.