Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are — or how they got there. In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, ruthless elitists gather at a remote location to hunt humans for sport. But their master plan is about to be derailed when one of the hunted, Crystal (Betty Gilpin), turns the tables on her pursuers.
If you are an avid film lover such as myself, then you have more than likely heard about the troubled past surrounding the release of Craig Zobel’s The Hunt. The film was originally scheduled to be released in theatres on September 27, 2019. Marketing on the movie had already begun, and it seemed like that date was a lock. But then, sadly, the horrific El Paso and Dayton shootings transpired close to the film’s release date, which caused Universal Pictures to postpone the release date of the film indefinitely saying that “now is not the right time to release the film”.
Although the decision was smart and responsible for Universal to do, people were left wondering when, or if, we would be able to see what Zobel cooked up with his seemingly insane action thriller. Months went by and still no word on a new date, but after a while, it was confirmed that the movie would finally see the light of day on March 13, 2020.
Ever since the project was initially announced, I was actually looking forward to it quite a bit. Everything about it seemed like it would work. It came across as The Hunger Games but for adults only. Now that I’ve seen it, I can happily report that it was definitely worth the wait, as The Hunt is an incredibly entertaining satirical action extravaganza, even if it misses the mark in a few areas.
If you have seen the trailer, you are probably going to head into the theatre expecting it to be a bloodbath, and it most certainly is. Don’t go into The Hunt expecting a relatively tame experience with not a lot to say. The opening sequence alone was disturbing and absurdly gory, but it never comes across as showing off. Sometimes, a film will have so much blood and gore in it to the point where you have to stop and ask yourself, “Is there even a story to tell here?”. Gratefully, there is a story to tell here amongst the killing spree, and it is one that was profoundly interesting.
Even though it can be a little bit predictable in some aspects, the plot was one that was original and intriguing. It makes you ask yourself hard questions and really puts you in the position of the lead characters. If you were to wake up in the middle of a massive forest with a bunch of strangers who are ball-gagged along with you, you would absolutely be terrified. But once you learn that you were placed there by a group of people that are ultimately going to try to kill you for sport, you would be even more horrified, and you would do whatever it took to get freedom, and this movie does a great job of exploring the mindset of the people inside this twisted game.
Easily one of the strongest aspects of the film as a whole was the performances from the entire cast, such as Emma Roberts and Ike Barinholtz. But the most terrific performance in the movie was without a doubt Betty Gilpin as Crystal. She feels carefully reserved here, and incredibly dangerous. By watching her character as the story progresses, you get the sense that if you were to do her wrong, she would have absolutely no problem killing you or seriously injuring you. Gilpin does a wonderful job of portraying a woman on-edge and one that you can understand. The way her character is incorporated in this gripping and intense story was profound and interesting.
Luckily, the story never takes itself one-hundred percent seriously either. I was deeply worried that screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof would attempt to make a fully-fledged dark thriller because, if that is what The Hunt ended up being, it quite simply wouldn’t have worked. But by injecting a sense of lightheartedness into the script every once in a while, it made everything feel much more entertaining. If they had gone the fully serious route, it would have come across as tired and uninteresting.
Regardless, the balance of comedy and thrills here is extremely good. Although not all of the humor works, especially with some of the characters early on, there is still enough of it to be entertained by. But when it comes to the thrills and the action here, it is immensely entertaining and brilliantly done. Yes, there are a ton of elements to The Hunt that will cause controversy. There are some moments that will make people upset, and that’s completely understandable. At times, Zobel bites off more than he can chew. But in the long run, this was a great satirical action-thriller with one whopper of an ending that will leave you thinking long after the credits roll.
The Hunt‘s comedic aspect may be a bit hit or miss, but when it comes to the intense, hard-hitting action and thrills, it delivers in spades.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout
Cast: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank, Justin Hartley, Glenn Howerton, Amy Madigan, Ethan Suplee, Macon Blair, J. C. MacKenzie, Wayne Duvall, Reed Birney, Teri Wyble, Sturgill Simpson, Jim Klock, Usman Ally, Steve Coulter, Dean West, Steve Mokate
Directed by: Craig Zobel
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: March 13, 2020
Running Time: 90 minutes