The Hunt review: a 90 minute blast of mayhem

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The controversially-delayed The Hunt finally hits the big screen, but can it live up to the hype? Duncan finds out.

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in the case of The Hunt, it’s in danger of overshadowing and misrepresenting a film that is as over the top in its political lampooning as it is with cartoonish mega-violence.

Initially to be released back in September of last year, The Hunt was delayed after the mass shootings in America happened a month before it was due. Consequently, some of the American press aimed their ire at the film, and the President of the US also had things to say. In a rather shrewd marketing twist though, many of the negative comments were then used on the films’ most recent poster, such as ‘demented and evil’ and ‘dangerous.’

While the poster makes for an entertaining read, it does set the film up to be something it’s not, as The Hunt is a self-proclaimed farce and plays out very much in that vein. Comedic strokes are applied broadly and at such a rapid rate, that inevitably not every one of them lands.

Going in to the film with clean expectations is therefore almost impossible (and the most recent trailer is absolutely to be avoided if that’s how you like to view a film, as it’s riddled with some key spoilers) but The Hunt wears its lack of subtlety on its sleeve with joyful abandon. Within minutes you’ll know if the film is for you or not, as the opening bolts straight into blood and bad jokes (appropriately launched by Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton) and doesn’t relent.

One of The Hunt’s key strengths is how heavily it toys with genre conventions, with everything from The Hunger Games, to Battle Royale and even more directly Jean Claude Van Damme’s Hard Target playing with the notion of a literal class war. The core concept is nothing new. Indeed, The Hunt is loosely based on a short story, The Most Dangerous Game which dates back to 1924, but this new take shocks with the speed and severity at which it dispatches its notable cast and gives them the kind of gory demise that would make The Walking Dead proud.

The gore is constant throughout, but it’s so over the top that it becomes a darkly comic source of laughter, providing the same level of macabre mischief that the Friday the 13th movies used prestigiously. Depending on how much entertainment you’ve gained from watching Jason Vorhees decimate on screen is a good marker for how to judge The Hunt.

The crux of The Hunt’s narrative rests on the shoulders of GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, as she’s the one character you feel certain you can root for. Her performance is simply superb. Her ability to convey a multitude of different feelings within seconds, just by minor facial movements, is impressive to behold and almost eclipse the incredible amounts of physical vengeance she doles out to anyone that stands in her way. The violence she perpetrates is as brutal as it is assertive, much like the tone of the film.

Taking the film at face value is the best way to enjoy it, but the political satire is impossible to ignore and while it opts to poke fun at opposite ends of the spectrum with its red vs blue set up, it does a much better job of doling out insults more equally than expected.

Furthermore, The Hunt tries its best to level criticism against any extreme views, no matter which way they swing, as being detrimental. Even if they are presented by overly caricatured stereotypes. It’s going to no doubt prove utterly divisive, depending on the viewers’ own bias, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it gets people talking. The irony being that instead of engaging in debate, the online comments will likely devolve into something entirely less pleasant, which is firmly what the movie states is the cause of the hunt itself.

The Hunt as a whole is pure, base level, entertainment, that while not pulling the whole concept through as cleverly as it would like, has some brilliantly twisted moments and whips through its 90-minute run time with barely a pause. More’s the pity it’s carrying so much baggage, as the expectation and hype are sure to be a let down for many, but as a funny and flawed slice of chaos it’s a well worth a watch.

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