The Hunt is the second adaptation of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, and for good reason – it’s a great setup. If you’ve ever seen 1993’s Hard Target starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, then you’ve already seen the first adaptation based on the concept of elite rich people hunting us regular people. So how does The Hunt differ from John Woo’s classic 90s American debut that tried (and failed) to bring back the mullet?
For starters, it replaces Van Damme with a kick-ass female lead in the form of Betty Gilpin (A Dog’s Journey, Glow) and instead of trying to a serious action movie, instead it’s a gory, satiric dark comedy that pokes fun at American politics and political correctness. I found it to be fantastically entertaining and is my favorite movie of 2020 thus far.
Twelve strangers wake up in the middle of nowhere with gags in their mouths. How did they get there? Why are they there? Very quickly the group are presented with weapons and the dangerous reality they face becomes obviously apparent – they are being hunted. One by one these “innocent” everyday people are viciously killed without a chance to get their bearings or even understand why they have been chosen as prey. However, one of them is harder to kill than the rest. Guess who.
Crystal (Betty Gilpin) isn’t like the other victims. She’s resourceful, forward-thinking and more than capable of taking care of herself. Understanding that it’s kill or be killed and that she needs to keep moving if she is to survive, Crystal decides that today is not the day she is going to be hunted – she will be the hunter. Despite the disadvantage of overwhelming numbers against her and playing on the enemy’s turf, she makes it her mission to find out what is going on and to show the rich and powerful elite who hunt her that they messed with the wrong person.
Betty Gilpin is superb as Crystal, an ex-military survivalist who really shines as an action woman. It shouldn’t be surprising given the physical requirements of her role on the Netflix wrestling series, Glow, that she’d be up for the challenge here. But unlike Glow that flaunts her femininity, The Hunt doesn’t treat her as eye candy, despite her beauty. Rather, she’s a practical, no-nonsense warrior who is more concerned with living another day instead of running around in revealing clothes or doing provocative poses after defeating her enemy.
Gilpin is intense and powerful as she channels the same energy that made great strong female characters like Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor (ignoring Terminator: Dark Fate) and Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Coupled with a fantastically witty script (from Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof) that adds a layer of comedy to her ruthlessness, we end up with one of my new favorite female action heroes.
Director Craig Zobel (Mare of Easttown, Westworld) has managed to blend the perfect ratio between dark, satirical comedy that pokes fun at the extreme ends of American politics and extreme, graphic violence. Because the story and dialogue are so absurd, the style of violence is able to be equally over-the-top while still being able to convey the comedy that ludicrous levels of politics can sometimes be seen as by those of us less political.
He sets the tone and pace early on with a very strong intro sequence that keeps us guessing as to which character we should be invested in and keeps the audience engaged by holding nothing back when poking fun at both the left and right side of politics as the story delivers an increasing and impressive ongoing body count. Nobody is safe and nobody is favored. Even if you’re particularly far leaning to one side or another, you’d have to be missing a funny bone to not appreciate what Zobel is trying to illustrate with this film.
The Hunt is a great movie. It could have easily become like any other forgettable graphically violent action movie yet manages to separate itself from the rest with it’s hilarious dialogue and presenting a female action lead that isn’t cringeworthy (I’m looking at you, Charlie’s Angels). It’s not going to be for everybody and, honestly, it’s destined to offend people (which is probably why its release was famously delayed). But that’s what makes it so entertaining. It pokes fun at both sides of American politics while delivering a fast-paced action extravaganza with a great female lead. With these strong elements in play, The Hunt is my favorite movie of 2020 so far and an easy recommendation.