TL;DR – A film that is brilliantly bookended but a bit of a slog to get from start to finish.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Many films have a rocky road from start to release, however, the problems usually lie either during or in the post-production process. Rarely do films have problems once they are ready to go, well sometimes it is threats from North Korea, and sometimes it is issues well outside anyone’s controls. Today we look at such a film that whose second attempt at a release got messy thanks to the world at the moment, but it is here now so let’s take a look.
So to set the scene, we open in on a forest as eleven strangers wake up, with no idea where they are or what happened to them, nor why they are wearing gags. One of the group, a young woman (Emma Roberts) notices one of the group run off into the woods, but everyone else is fixated on the box in the middle of the field. Inside is the keys to their escape, but also the start of the carnage as guns start going off everywhere. Now unlike a lot of films, it is a bit difficult to talk about this film without hitting [SPOILERS] real quick, so there will be some plot points that are spoilers that we will be discussing in the review.
One of the areas where the film is really strong is in those opening moments, where it is not clear what is about to happen. To be honest, even knowing what kind of film this is, I was still blindsided by a couple of those misdirects at the start and that is because of some good set up work. The opening mess around the crate has all the hallmarks of what if we really got to see what goes down in The Hunger Games in all its R-rated bloodiness. It was one of the best sections of the film let down with maybe taking it too far into unbelievability with that second pit moment.
While the film had such a strong opening, it loses itself in the middle as it tries to work out what kind of film it wants to be. Every moment after the petrol station feels like a drag as the film claws around trying to find some structure. It is missing some direction, some real purpose, though it was good that they at least touched on the plight of refugees, even if it is a more sanitised version of reality. The one thing that stops this part of the film from being a complete mess is the strength of character that is Betty Gilpin. She takes what could be a very one-note character and turns Crystal Creasey into a really interesting layered character and the only character the film does not actively dislike. She also has the physicality to sell those action beats. This is important because when we move into that final act it is her along with some great casting in Hilary Swank as Athena Stone helps the film take off again.
I have to say that after quite a wait I was interested to see what all the fuss was about with regards to the film’s politics that was a big part of the advertising at least. Now while there was a lot on show there was not a lot of substance to those political stances when you dig down into it. At the core, this is a film about something that you can only find in the very fringes of the internet, where leftist elites would hunt right-wing common folk for sport. On first look this is exactly what the film is presenting, however, the film has disdain for both sides. You have the murderous rich people that hit just about every cliché that you have herd used in the same sentence as Tumblr but then it also equally derisive of the right to bear arms/crisis actors mentality of those being hunted. It is a film that explores the very worst of society, but it wants to hold back from making any definitive comments which does hurt the point it is trying to make.
I found most of the action scenes were constructed well, with a good flow and choreography. The best example of this is in the final act, so I can’t go into a lot of detail, other to say that it is well worth the wait. I also liked the use of tension at times, this is most effective right at the start when the characters and the audience are still not quite sure what is going on. There is a little bit of a generic feel to the setting but if I can let every planet through a Stargate look like the same forest then this is not so bad.
In the end, do we recommend The Hunt? This might be a difficult one to answer. This is a film that is going to appeal to people who like a certain type of action film and I think those who like a more gory experience will like this film. If you are there for the political commentary, I don’t think it will go where you want it to go, no matter your affiliation. If you did like The Hunt, I would also recommend to you The Invisible Man, also by Blumhouse/Universal.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Hunt
Directed by – Craig Zobel
Written by – Nick Cuse & Damon Lindelof
Music by – Nathan Barr
Cinematography by – Darran Tiernan
Edited by – Jane Rizzo
Production/Distribution Companies – Blumhouse Productions, White Rabbit Productions & Universal Pictures
Starring – Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Justin Hartley, Kate Nowlin, Sturgill Simpson, Sylvia Grace Crim, Chris Berry, Walker Babington, Jason Kirkpatrick, Hilary Swank, Glenn Howerton, Teri Wyble, Macon Blair, Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Usman Ally, J. C. MacKenzie, Steve Coulter, Dean West, Steve Mokate, Hannah Aline, Tadasay Young & Jim Klock
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R