In a world so divided by difference, so angered by political party affiliations and so consumed by the validity of their own opinions, a film that points its social commenting lens at all of these issues through the design of a shrewdly crafted genre film makes complete sense. The execution of this concept, at least for director Craig Zobel, has proven much more difficult than expected.
“The Hunt,” directed by Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, was supposed to be released late last summer 2019 from Universal Pictures. However, after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas brought political discussions about violence across America into the forefront. The film about blue-state Americans capturing, hunting and killing fellow red-state Americans was postponed before anyone had seen it.
Now that the world is consumed by new pandemic issues, “The Hunt” finds its release closer to an election event but still within a world where opinions and differences divide groups as fast as the crate of weapons, which
arrives early in this film, divides prey from predator with bullets and explosions.
The premise is simple, but the details of how everything moves forward is part of the fun, so we’ll keep the narrative specifics as basic as possible. A group of people, who all have the same disdain and hate for the unnamed President in the film, sip champagne and enjoy the luxuries of a private jet. They all share the same political sentiments and discuss how they can’t wait to bring justice to a group of “deplorables” (a word used specifically within the film). Soon after, a group of people, who are gagged with a locked device, wake
up in the middle of nowhere. They find a mysterious crate that, once opened, reveals a surplus of weapons of every size and shape. Once everyone is armed, the mayhem begins.
“The Hunt” proposes an interesting idea that unfortunately never feels completely developed to its full potential. The characters and narrative within the film hit with the same sledgehammer subtlety as the viscera and violence throughout. While it feels purposefully designed that the viewer isn’t supposed to side with any of the characters in this film but rather meant to reflect on how each one is treating and speaking to each other, it only works in small pieces. However, when the film spends less time on gore and big emotional characters and embraces its satirical and dark comedy foundations, the thematic caricatures of hatred, mistrust, resentment and pettiness reveal themselves and “The Hunt” finds its most interesting narrative beats.
Anger is a great narrative vehicle, it leads stories to numerous emotional conclusions both happy and devastating. The anger in “The Hunt” is focused on the indifferences found with Americans; how at the core of difficult conversations about religion, policy, race or politics, everyone begins to despise one another. “The Hunt” uses this device of anger to build a sometimes interesting, yet mostly underdeveloped idea, constructing a genre film that feels more like basic exploitation cinema than deeper social commentary. For some viewers, this more comical, less serious structure will be the fun you might crave during the ever-changing times we are living in.