Let’s talk about The Hunt.
It’s fair to say that we live in a highly politicised time. Due to the election of Donald Trump over in the States and the long drawn out process that Brexit here in the UK, politics has been talked about more than ever with emotions being higher than ever. People who wouldn’t have known what a constitution was a few years ago now argue intensely about its intricacies. With so many people interested, or at least angry, about politics, it’s not surprising to see that our overlords over in Hollywood are trying to take advantage by shoehorning references to the political scene into their films. This can be fine as some filmmakers are able to make funny jokes and add extra depth to their films using contemporary references. Some shouldn’t bother.
The Hunt is a telling of a story as old as time. A group of rich people get together, kidnap some poor people and decide for fun they are going to hunt them. It’s a story so old that comedy shows no longer parody it, they instead parody the parody. The twist here is that our rich people are ‘liberal elites’ while the poor people are ‘deplorables’, so Donald Trump supporters.
This immediately brings up one large problem. Who the hell are we meant to root for, after all, movies for years have relied on some person we identify with enough that we want to see their personal quest be completed. Usually with this story, we end up rooting for the hunted because of course we do. But in this case, the hunted are horrible people. In case you think this is a film written and made by Trump supporters which make their supporters look like salt of the earth working-class people who are ignored by the ‘liberal elite’, it’s not. These are your stereotypical gun nut snowflake bashing racists that you see on The Donald. So it’s certainly not a film on their side. Maybe then, it’s a film supporting the hunters and it’s going down the torture porn route of having us root for the intelligent people getting rid of these horrible people. But it’s not that either with the liberal elites being painfully terrible people, they are your students union but on locally sourced eco-friendly steroids. Basically it’s a group of bastards hunting another group of bastards.
The nearest thing we have to a hero is Crystal, a lady we end up following after a few fake outs. The problem is that you can never trust her, and not in a cool way but in a ‘are you going to end up being a racist in the next scene’ sort of way. That’s because she is being hunted with the rest of the deplorables and she never really denies she is one. It wouldn’t take much to distinguish her early on, she ends up teaming up with people and it would take a very quick ‘Oh fuck off you racist I’m not one of you’ to tell the audience that she is not going to end up saying the Coronavirus is a scam caused by 5G. But the film does not bother to do that at all so you are left with a nagging anxiety this woman might end up being a nutter. We have been milkshake ducked far too many times to trust someone who might be cool, especially when the film does not develop Crystal at all other than being a generic action hero. So we are left with no one to root for
So the question is what the hell is this film trying to do? When you read up on it, it does say its a satire. And it is perfectly possible to be a satire and not take any side on a political argument. The Thick Of It is one of the best political satires of all time but you cannot say it is right-wing or left-wing. But while it may not have been praising either capitalism or socialism, it did have a point it wanted to make sure we all knew. Politicians did not know what they doing more than us and they are pretty much useless. Not a radically original point but one it made well. I don’t know what the hell The Hunt was trying to do with its satire. Is it trying to say that both sides are pretty terrible? Well, I think so but it’s not doing it in a funny or clever way. Both groups just say irritating buzzwords and then get killed in brutal fashion. It’s like being stuck in the middle of an argument between a Trumper and a Bernie Bro with the eventual result as your sanity dwindles.
The only other thing the movie has is a lot of twists. There are so many twists in this film even M. Night Shyamalan will get dizzy watching it. Every five minutes the film tries to pull the rug from underneath us and change things up. I get why someone thought this was a good idea, I can imagine the meeting where it was pitched that the audience would never feel safe, that they would question everything they see on-screen at all times. In reality, all that happens is that after the first few twists, you realise what’s going on so you guard yourself emotionally. Much like how I’ve seen Sheffield Wednesday lose so much and let me down so many times that I just expect it now so it doesn’t hurt as much, you don’t get attached to the characters or the plot because you expect everything will change within the next ten minutes. You are much better served with one big twist than lots across the film.
What The Hunt ends up being is a completely failed attempt at political satire. Instead of being smart and finding a fun and novel way to parody the fraught and angry political debate going on, it just has some gore, action and a few limp buzzwords. If it was just an action film about hunting people, it’d be pretty forgettable. It wouldn’t have got a big review like I’ve given it here, that’s for sure as that part is unremarkable. But the film is built on this political satire which I can’t even criticise as being basic but more just terribly implemented. The people writing this know nothing about politics, they just know about what they’ve seen on Twitter and Reddit over the last few years. They then saw they might be able to cause a stir by making a film with some political themes and hoped to make a quick buck on it.
In the end, they didn’t make a quick buck. Despite getting the news it wanted with Donald Trump criticising the movie, because he doesn’t have anything better to do, it kept getting delayed to various real-life events and the producers deciding it would be insensitive to release at that time. It was eventually released at the start of March. That was just before all the cinemas were shut down due to the Coronavirus, meaning it will now have to get some money back on VOD. This movie was so bad that real life has tried its best to make sure as few people as possible see it.