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Movie review: ‘The Hunt’ finally arrives in theaters, and it was worth the wait

Ed Symkus
More Content Now
Crystal (Betty Gilpin) is determined to stay alive in "The Hunt."

On Aug. 9 of last year, Donald Trump tweeted, “Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate! They like to call themselves ‘Elite,’ but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order ...”

He ran out of Twitter space, so continued in a second tweet, “to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”

The “movie coming out” that he referred to but didn’t name was “The Hunt,” which was set for a Sept. 27 release.

Flashback: On July 30, the first TV ad for “The Hunt” was broadcast. On Aug. 3, there was a deadly mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. On Aug. 4, there was a deadly mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. On Aug. 7, Universal Pictures, who made the film, suspended the marketing campaign “out of sensitivity to the attention on the country’s recent shooting tragedies,” according to a Universal statement.

Then came the Trump tweet. Note: Trump had not, and still has not, seen the film. But an unnamed associate of his supposedly read the script and told hm about it. On Aug. 10, Universal canceled the release of the film.

Was Trump the reason the plug was pulled? No one is saying, but the point is moot because the film opens this week.

Here’s my viewpoint on the rumpus surrounding it. If you’re a Trump supporter and you refuse to see it because you’re blindly following his word, that’s your loss. If you’re anti-Trump and you go to see it because he said not to, you might be disappointed - but only at how wrong he was about it.

What exactly is “The Hunt?”

Pieces of it will feel familiar to action-adventure-horror film fans. There are echoes of “The Most Dangerous Game,” “The Purge,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Predator.” It’s about people hunting people. In this case it’s about - here comes the politics - a group of the “liberal elite” kidnapping and then killing off a group of “deplorables.”

So, yes, this is politically charged. But, now pay attention, folks: IT’S A SATIRE! No party is named. No cause is mentioned. Nobody is right. Everybody is wrong. No matter what side of the political fence you’re on in real life, you’re going to recognize that the hunters in the film - the liberal elite - are the bad guys, going after their perceived enemies for sport. But in an interesting twist, the hunters, having carefully vetted, handpicked, and disoriented a dozen “deplorables,” then provide them with weapons to fight back. And the targets, fighting for survival, are just as vicious in their tactics as are their attackers.

There’s a “10 Little Indians” vibe to the film, as the numbers of players are regularly diminished (don’t get too used to seeing anyone for very long), and there’s much violence and exploitation of it. It does get gruesome and brutal and a bit bloody, yet it never goes overboard into full-out gore.

But it’s also brimming with terrific performances - the standouts coming from Betty Gilpin (Debbie on “GLOW”) as Crystal, one of the hunted, and Hilary Swank as Athena, the mastermind of the hunters. Note: These two women take part in one of the best choreographed, photographed, and stunt-filled (and conversational!) hand-to-hand fights I’ve seen in a long time. There’s also plenty of wry and witty and earthy dialogue coming from people on both sides, and an ample supply of dark but quite funny and very oddball humor.

So, never mind the politics of or surrounding this film. Go for the twists and turns of the plot, and for the purposely over dramatic music that drives the action, and for the way the characters act with and react to each other. Go for the fun of it. It’s lots of fun.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“The Hunt”

Written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof; directed by Craig Zobe;

With Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Hilary Swank

Rated R