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'The Hunt' Review: A Triumph Of Style Over Substance

Timing is everything.

Case in point, the delayed opening of The Hunt a movie scheduled for release last September and then held back six months in light of the two tragic mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso last August.

The reason? The Hunt is a twisted story about people hunting other people for sport, something that happens with too much frequency in recent history. The separation between fiction and reality has grown disturbingly thin these days.

That wasn’t the case back in 1932 when the movie that inspired The Hunt was made. It was called The Most Dangerous Game and it starred Fay Wray.

During production, she was doing double duty and working on another movie that was being shot simultaneously on some of the same jungle sets. That movie was, of course King Kong.

Back then, the very idea of homicidal maniacs who would hunt and kill people for the sake of sport was both as terrifying and at the same time, as preposterous, as the existence of a giant ape that could climb the newly-completed Empire State Building and swat down bi-planes.

But this is 87 years later, and things have changed. What was unimaginable then is now a recurring breaking news event. It’s troubling.

With so much horror and death in the real world, you wonder why people pay to see it at the movies. I don’t have an answer for that but The Hunt has arrived to cash in on that reality. It’s the product of Blumhouse Productions, a movie company making a cottage industry out of torture and pain. Their credits include: The Purge movies, the Insidious movies, Split, Get Out and Happy Death Day; also the recently released Fantasy Island and The Invisible Man.

The Hunt’s plot involves 12 people who are abducted, drugged and taken to an unknown countryside location where they quickly discover that a group of people intend to hunt them down and kill them.

They are given some weapons, but it’s clear that the cards are stacked against them and that they living targets to picked off one at a time in a bloody gore-fest.

On the positive side, The Hunt, as a movie, offers up a lot of entertainment, if you like gory, graphic violence.

I will also have to admit that the cleverly constructed plot offers up a lot of surprises devised to throw you completely off your game in the first 20 minutes or so, to the point that you don’t even know who the protagonist is going to be.

Suffice it to say that you almost stop trying to second guess. But then one of the female victims wanders into the mayhem and things get underway. In the spirit of unpredictability, she proceeds to offer up some interesting revelations and surprises of her own, right down to the final reel.

That character is played by Betty Gilpin, in my estimation, an absolutely perfect choice for the role. She owns it, revealing her character as a surprisingly, unflinching, hard-as-nails, one-woman-army who should not be messed with.

On one level, I really enjoyed The Hunt as a violent action flick. There’s no question that it works within the genre of graphically violent entertainment. Yes, it’s disturbing, certainly not a movie for everyone, but if you like movies like this, you won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the better releases from Blumhouse.

But then, at the core of the story is something remarkably strange. Something with a bewildering political spin.

Let’s just say (without giving away too much) that the villains are a group of people not known for their love of violence or guns.

Quite the opposite, they are traditionally and staunchly anti-gun activists. So, it seems downright illogical and idiotic that these are the people who are brandishing the high-tech weapons and gleefully dispatching fellow human beings as fast as they can pull the triggers.

Talk about an alternate reality. Here’s a case where objective reality is turned inside out and upside down.

I’d like to think that this table-turning is an attempt at some dark political satire, except that it doesn’t play that way.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of political commentary spread throughout the script, oftentimes funny and satirical, but it’s not exactly clear what this movie is really up to in a larger sense or what the message is, in the final analysis.

It’s worth mentioning that Hilary Swank is back in the big screen as a bad-ass evil mastermind. She’s good at being bad, and every scary movie needs a really scary villain to set up the big climactic battle.

That final, vicious confrontation is right out of Kill Bill: Part Two, so if you’ve been missing fight scenes like this, the wait is over.

As a bloody, gory, violent action flick, The Hunt works, but only within those parameters. When it turns its twisted cross-hair sights to issues like the ever-widening political divide in our nation or the ugly rise of elitism or classism, it misses the mark.

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