The Hunt (2020)

“War is war.”

Coined as controversial and delayed due to fears it might further divide an already separated country, The Hunt is the prime example of a terrible movie that gives itself too much credit for not doing – or saying – hardly anything at all. It’s a marketing stunt aimed at exploiting the growing split between the media’s grips on the elitist left and the ramshackle right, except that’s not really what the film is about either. The Hunt’s main target is comprised of the keyboard cowboys and anonymous assassins who provoke vitriol and exploit mankind’s worst sides, and the film never capitalizes on the power of its initial premise, instead settling for scenes driven by simple shock value. A defibrillator couldn’t have resuscitated this empty, gutted, soulless cadaver.

The Hunt begins with a text chain on a phone screen. Derisive and off-color remarks are made by presumptuous liberals about those across the aisle and on the bottom rung of the ladder, going so far as to jokingly suggest that they should hunt and kill their political opponents. They aren’t comedians but ensure us they’re just kidding. As you might expect, the artifice lasts mere minutes, seguing to a private jet where priceless champagne is the topic of discussion among the elites on board. That is until a stodgy, Middle America man stumbles into first class, foggy and unsure of how he joined this unique mile high club.

If there’s anything remotely positive to say about The Hunt, it’s that the picture wastes no time in becoming a rather unexpected blood-spattered crime scene, and the film’s final girl Crystal (a very game yet one-note Betty Gilpin) brings a level of snarling, grimacing tenacity that’s otherwise missing from a featherweight predator versus prey story line. The wealthy kill the poor, give them false hope, try to trick them into traps and crosshairs. It’s about as on the nose as any political satire can possbily get. But Crystal isn’t a simpleton; she’s a resourceful survivor. Unfortunately her dogged pursuit of vengeance quickly becomes as predictable as the script’s lazy rewording and use of Aesop’s “jack rabbit and the box turtle” fable. Even a child knows how this one will play out.

The Hunt is what you get when the weight of a story is built upon an intriguing premise that has no setup and an altogether unpolished, unfinished payoff. The laughs don’t land, nor do the punches or the hyper violent deaths, and everything about this film feels as if it’s been cut by a double-edged sword to the tune of a muted, muddled tone. The Hunt so badly wants to be the X-Acto knife that cuts to the core of what makes us all bleed the same blood, yet it goes about this wielding a bread knife and without taking a firm moral position, unfolding and registering as more of a schlocky parody than it ever does as a serious satire. At least I now have a clear-eyed and initial front-runner for the worst film of 2020.

“I wish this didn’t happen.”

Rating: 0.5 out of 5

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