The Hunt: A One and a Half Hour Dumpster Fire
With a confusing political theme, a poorly conceived plot, and underwhelming characters, “The Hunt” utterly fails as either an action movie or meaningful social commentary.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
“The Hunt” is an absolute mess. After its initial release was delayed in the wake of the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, the film was released despite its controversy on March 13, angering liberals and conservatives alike. While the film is clearly political, any intended meaning ends up buried under layers of satire, terrible writing, and unnecessary plot twists, resulting in an indecipherable attempt at an allegory that leaves everyone feeling insulted. With an awkward combination of exaggerated violence, poor comedy, and half-hearted attempts at political commentary, the movie barely knows what it's supposed to be. There is very little “The Hunt” does well, and it mainly serves as a mediocre action flick, with its greatest achievement being able to talk a lot without saying anything.
“The Hunt” is based around a very simple premise: twelve working-class conservatives are abducted to be hunted by a group of liberal elites, led by Athena Faris (Hilary Swank), for sport. The main character, Crystal Creasey (Betty Gilpin), is one of these victims, and the movie follows her as she tries to escape, though she later hunts down those who tried to kill her. At first, it seems like the movie is a simple condemnation of the American left, with most of the 12 “deplorables,” as the antagonist calls them (alluding to Hillary Clinton’s statement in the 2016 election), being cut down in spectacular violence within 20 minutes, in what they repeatedly call Manorgate, an internet conspiracy theory about liberal elites hunting people (referring to Pizzagate, a right-wing conspiracy theory linking high ranking Democratic officials to child sex trafficking). While such a message is one-sided, divisive, and very unpopular, it at least gives what would otherwise be a pointless and underwhelming action movie a reason to exist.
As the plot progresses, however, it’s clear that “The Hunt” lacks a consistent theme. The liberal antagonists may be comically hypocritical, hypersensitive, and exaggeratedly politically correct, but the characters who are meant to portray a more conservative viewpoint are also egregiously stereotypical, with most of the survivors being racist, violent nut jobs. The only well-developed and reasonable character is Crystal, who is normal and relatable in the otherwise absurd line up. “The Hunt” labels itself as a political satire, and its cast of caricatures as a means of social criticism, but the movie is so committed to irony that it's impossible to tell what the argument is. Almost every character can be summarized as a collection of the most common insults thrown between political parties, an attack to both liberals and conservatives. Every element seems to have a sarcastic undertone, leaving any sincere intent completely undeterminable. Is the stereotypical character of Trucker Shane (Justin Hartley) a dig at conservatives, a symbol of the left’s ignorance and condescension to the right, or a satirical fulfillment of the right’s persecution complex? It seems like even the writers don’t know.
The complete lack of thought behind the film's message can be epitomized by its recurring references to George Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm.” The movie alludes to the book, exemplified by the reveal of a pig named Orwell, though there is no thematic connection between the two stories, and the allusion makes no sense. “Animal Farm” is referenced throughout the film as a book about politics that educated people read and has no other purpose. When combined with the underdeveloped political message of the movie, the allusion indicates that the initial goal was to be politically controversial instead of actually saying anything of value.
Even without considering the politics, “The Hunt” still struggles to deliver. While the opening massacre is satisfyingly violent and surprisingly comedic, the plot quickly devolves into a series of unnecessary plot twists that only serve to complicate the film and confuse the viewer. The action sequences, despite being entertaining and hilariously over the top, are too sparse to make up for the poorly constructed storyline, weak characters, and tiresome attempts to shock the audience with boring reveals. The final scene is by far the best in the movie simply because it’s all action, with little room for jumbled writing and unwelcome politics. Though it is the strongest element of the film, the absurd violence definitely clashes with the film’s attempt at political commentary. Simply put, a scene of a man having a grenade shoved down his pants and being blown into red mist is incompatible with anything intellectual.
“The Hunt” seems like the amalgamation of two drastically distinct and largely incongruent goals, either of which could have succeeded on its own but together most definitely did not. The movie feels formless in the worst way, with a confusing plot structure and an opaque political message that seems to leave everyone unhappy. It’s a film that almost satirizes itself, so wrapped up in its own message that it loses sight of any purpose. Despite all of its attempts at controversial social commentary, “The Hunt” ends up meaningless and painfully vapid.