I was looking forward to The Hunt. With the tumultuous sociopolitical upheaval since Trump was elected Commander-in-chief three years ago, I thought somebody may have gotten around to creating a sharp, tightly-written satire predicated on the stereotypical extremes of the Pro-Trump/Anti-Trump camps. It didn’t need to be as brilliant as something like Network, Dr Strangelove or Wag The Dog, just some solid performances, a funny and intelligent script that comprehensively lampooned partisan fundamentalism, and a subtle but pertinent moral would have sufficed. With the almost mythical buzz surrounding the release of the movie, I had the strongest of hunches that my wish had been granted. But no. No, it hadn’t. This film sucks ass.
12 complete strangers are abducted one night, drugged unconscious, gagged and left to come to in an expansive middle-of-nowhere wilderness. There is something vaguely redneckish/prep-like about all of them, and it is quickly revealed that all constituents are of philosophical viewpoints that deviate from the contemporary authoritarian Left orthodoxy. Some of them are outright supporters of Donald Trump, strongly ‘traditionalist’ i.e. xenophobic, homophobic, any other ‘phobic’ you can dredge up, some rant passionately about their Second Amendment rights and the natural right to hunt wildlife, others are just fed up with speech limitations and calls for violence upon those that dare exercise their rights enumerated in the First Amendment. Their abductors are a shadowy cabal of dorky, ultra-P.C. liberals who have taken to brutally hunting down those politically divergent to them for sport. It’s The Most Dangerous Game, but with ‘cucks’ as the predators and ‘deplorables’ as the prey, if you will.
Given a fighting chance with a crate full of firearms and blades that looks like the prop cupboard from a Rambo film, the unfortunate MAGA bunch are forced into being light on their feet from the outset, desperate to evade the neverending attempts to shoot, stab and grenade them. The film is somewhat playful in the way that it settles into establishing focal characters, so I can’t give away too much (I’m committed to spoiler omission even if something is utter dreck), the protagonists who manage to be luckier than others fighting their way through a complex known as ‘The Manor’. This rural sprawl has been implemented with ironic red herrings in order to placate and sadistically toy with the victims. In addition to survival, they’re also looking to track down and annihilate one Athena Stone, the mysterious, evil and obviously liberal genius who orchestrated the entire ordeal.
None of this film works, on any level. With the exception of Betty Gilpin and It’s Always Sunny‘s very own Glenn Howerton, the performances are extremely dry, it’s difficult to give an infinitesimal shit about any of the characters, even if it is trying to be a ridiculous black comedy. The script is disjointed and incoherent, with random developments that come apropos of nothing and are never explained to anything resembling a satisfactory degree. The worst element is undoubtedly the humour, or lack thereof. I fully expected jokes and japes about politically correct hypersensitivity, far-right extremism, and sardonic nods to political figures on either side of the aisle, but I expected to, you know, laugh at them. Everything is so on the nose, it’s excruciating. There would have been a strong potential for some robust comedy had there been some pithy, deadpan wit going on (I desperately wish a brutal satire like this had been done in the heyday of Bill Murray et al). Instead, we are treated to clumsily delivered, overblown spiels about climate change, cultural appropriation, gendered language, conspiracy theorist jargon and whether or not National Public Radio are qualified to dictate that the term ‘black people’ is an inoffensive as ‘African-American’. It’s not that the content is entirely unworkable in and of itself, it’s that the dialogue and delivery have all of the finesse and comic timing of the worst kinds of Youtube keyboard warriors.
In reiteration of the film’s two merits, Betty Gilpin actually delivers a rather sturdy performance as tough-as-nails Mississippi badass Crystal. She has an undeniable presence, and her send-up of an archetypal good-but-kind-of-sociopathic strong Southern woman provides a modicum of mirth where the majority of the film falls flat on its face. The same can be said of Glenn Howerton as Richard, one of the villainous snowflakes, who is established in the film’s opening as easily being the funniest of the antagonists, commuting some of his persona of Dennis from IASIP, which I will happily admit raised a chuckle or two. But it’s nowhere near enough to carry it home.
That’s about all I can say really. It just wasn’t good. It doesn’t work as a political satire, it barely works as a garden-variety action thriller, it’s not funny, it’s not comprehensively well-acted, and once the final frame had transpired, I sat there attempting to figure out what the point was, on any conceivable level. With nothing insightful to say about anything, The Hunt merely possesses the accolade of the storm of controversy surrounding it’s original scheduled release back in September of last year (several mass shootings in August led to postponement) and the fact that Trump excoriated the subject matter as being typical of ‘Liberal Hollywood racists’. But the film isn’t anti-conservative, anti-liberal or anti-anything, because it’s so incompetent that its agenda will forever remain a mystery locked inside the minds of its patently weird and silly creators. Honestly, don’t bother.