Starring Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Wayne Duvall, Amy Madigan and Reed Birney. Written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Directed by Craig Zobel. Opens March 13 at theatres everywhere. 90 minutes. 14A
(2.5 stars out of 4)
What a difference a delay makes.
"The Hunt" seemed like just another entry in the human-hunting genre — which spans from "The Most Dangerous Game" in 1932 to last year's Cannes contender "Bacurau" — when it was held back from release last fall.
Outraged right-wingers, led by the Tweeter-in-Chief, complained sight unseen that the film amounts to redneck-baiting. The first trailer certainly suggested as much.
With many a nod and wink, “The Hunt” depicts homicidal American elites, led by Hilary Swank’s manor-bound Athena, who abduct and hunt for sport a dozen “deplorables.” These caviar-and-champagne killers use guns, arrows and grenades to violently act upon Hillary Clinton's infamous presidential campaign putdown from 2016.
There is still a violent blue state vs. red state political dynamic in the film directed by Craig Zobel (“Compliance”), which was co-written by Nick Cuse (TV’s “The Leftovers”) and Damon Lindelof (“World War Z,” “The Leftovers”).
But the March 13 wide release, in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, adds a new layer of anarchy and social anxiety to the mix. “The Hunt” is still not a great movie, but it’s certainly attention-grabbing at a time when the guy coughing next to you in the theatre could be passing on a life-threatening illness.
Perhaps closer to reality than we care to admit, it shows what happens when the social contract breaks down and civilization devolves into trust-no-one lawlessness.
Not for nothing is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” repeatedly referenced.
First and foremost in a cast of faces both familiar and not is one-woman avenger Crystal, played by Betty Gilpin (“GLOW,” “Stuber”), who should be casting choice No. 1 if they ever make a female reboot of "Dirty Harry." Those murderous elites picked the wrong “deplorable” to mess with when they nabbed and gagged her.
Gilpin turns the tables in “The Hunt,” making it seems less like a horror movie and more like a speculative thriller about modern politics and panics.
(Follow on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm)