Food: The most elite food referenced in the film is caviar, but since that is a wee bit out of my budget and does not seem like a prime quarantine meal, I went for something different, but still upscale. My roommates and I had always wanted to try Carbone, a high end New York Italian restaurant, so we decided to chip in and treat ourselves to delivery the other night. We ordered the spicy rigatoni vodka, the dish called Mario’s Meatballs (3 per order), and the tortellini al ragu. The portion sizes were small (figures), but the food was absolutely delicious.
Film: A modern take on Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, Craig Zobel’s “The Hunt” (2020) is a film about people killing each other for sport. It is an in-your-face approach that utilizes the current political climate as it’s backbone – pinning the lampooned version of both liberals and conservatives against each other in a fight to the death.
Unfortunately, in “The Hunt,” none of the characters seem to rise above a commonplace stereotype, all of them making generalized statements full of “click-baity” lingo on both sides of politically divided America, making every piece of dialogue distracting. The film begins with (Exhibit A) a group chat text exchange between a woman named Athena and her friends, where they discuss celebrating an upcoming hunt for “deplorables.”
Next, we find ourselves on a private jet with Athena and her wealthy friends, one who is not in the mood for the plane’s caviar and asks for a specialized dish. “The plane doesn’t have a full kitchen, sir,” apologizes the flight attendant. Another man staggers from the back of the plane, and immediately is taken down in a brutal stabbing. Following this, eleven characters wake up in an open field, gagged and in the middle of a clearing, where they are presented with a box of weapons. It is very “Hunger Games.” Amidst the chaos, one woman stands out named Crystal (Betty Gilpin), who is tight-lipped and intense. Having previously served in the military, she is disciplined down to her walk, but every movement feels intentional, sharp and quick. She is a machine, and she is our hero.
The plot takes a preposterous turn rather quickly, and suddenly we are left attempting to decipher a convoluted story. Moving from a field to a gas station to a train and including, but not limited to, crisis actors, Croatian refugees, conspiracy theorists, American envoys, something called “Manorgate” and a story about a Jackrabbit and a box turtle, we are all just really along for the ride.
“The Hunt” is a film that wants to bring people together by reflecting on the absurdity of an us vs. them mentality. It is designed to be a satire of polarized America, but it fails to say anything worthwhile about the political divide, the misleading effects of an overpopulated and unreliable news circuit, misinformation, lack of responsibility, general ignorance, or tired extremists on both sides. It fails to say anything worthwhile at all. If anything, it takes a jabbing approach to politics, caricaturing both liberals and conservatives, and refusing to dig deeper for any further depth. Monica Castillo (of RogerEbert.com) said it perfectly: “the film is filled with more memes than plot…despite all its copy and pasting of popular terms and internet slurs, doesn’t add up to anything beyond its superficial violence.”
Prior to the film’s release, the film attracted widespread attention for being perceived as a movie about liberal elitists hunting supporters of Donald Trump. Trump took to Twitter to say that the film (which he had not yet seen), was made my “Liberal Hollywood” and was “racist at the highest level.” Ironically, his response, which caused the film to postpone it’s release date twice, only served to prove Zobel’s own premise: that people look at things through a narrow prism and use biases to mislabel and condone what they have yet to actually understand or experience.
All in all, “The Hunt” will entertain with it’s stocked cast, salacious violence and jocular tone. With Justin Hartley, Hillary Swank, Emma Roberts and more, the film is adrenaline sending fun, and Gilpin’s kick-ass performance playing against type is enjoyable to watch. Ultimately, though, the film is shallow and will be easily forgotten. A better version of similar concept? “Bacurau” (2019). Just saying.