I take a look at the “most controversial movie you’ve never seen.”
A group of elite “liberals” abduct a number of “deplorables” and hunt them for sport. The liberals include, among others, Athena Stone (Hillary Swank) and Richard (Glenn Howerton), and the deplorables include Moses (Ike Barinholtz), Yoga Pants (Emma Roberts), Gary (Ethan Suplee), Crystal (Betty Gilpin), and Don (Wayne Duvall). It’s Red State vs. Blue State, with the last man or woman standing apparently claiming moral superiority.
If you recall this movie, it’s probably because it was supposed to get released last year, until they stopped marketing it in response to a pair of mass shootings. This controversy was compounded by the fact that the President of the United States decided that he needed to weigh in on the movie, saying that it was “racist.” This take apparently was influential, despite the fact that the Liberals would be the bad guys in this movie and that political viewpoints are not a race. The release was then postponed. It was then moved to March of this year, with a new marketing campaign based around it being “super controversial.” Due to the fact that I don’t have a great history with films that market themselves around being controversial as opposed to, you know, GOOD, I wasn’t that psyched to see this movie. However, a friend recently told me that he enjoyed it, because this movie was essentially “(politically) moderate porn.”
Apparently I’m not moderate enough, because I did not enjoy the cinematic experience to an erotic degree. Maybe I own too many guns, or too few, I don’t know, but I just never found the movie that compelling throughout most of it. I think, ultimately, it comes down to how the different sides are portrayed during the film. While the “Liberals” are actually pretty comically liberal, such as having discussions over their own privilege constantly, the “deplorables,” and yes I’m using that word because I think they’re a different group than Conservatives, are not exaggerated enough. One of the most common tropes in a horror movie, and this is mostly a horror film, is that audiences want victims to deserve it. The way that The Hunt seems to handle this is by assuming that the viewer will think that just because these people are conspiracy theorists, we’ll agree that they deserve to die, and that’s… hard. Even when the total situation is revealed at the end, that doesn’t somehow undo the emotional confusion from the first part of the film.
Then there’s our main character, Crystal. Betty Gilpin does successfully portray her as a smart badass, but she’s still not that interesting for most of the film because the setting doesn’t allow her to be. She almost always seems to be in control, no matter what is happening, because she’s a former soldier, but until the literal last fight she appears to be too invincible to be a horror character. If you’ve seen the movie You’re Next, you’ll know that the key to having a kick-ass survivalist final girl is that they always need to be on the ropes, even though they’re superior to their assailants. This film doesn’t do that.
However, there are a few solid points to the film. First, a number of the kills are humorous and surprising, which is always good for a horror movie. Second, the final act is actually really well done, particularly in terms of satire and thriller elements. The conversation between Betty Gilpin and Hillary Swank feels like it was pulled out of a much better script. I was amused throughout the whole sequence, which makes it only more tragic that I was pretty checked out through the first hour.
Overall, though, I just only found this movie to be mediocre. If you can catch it for free, maybe do that, but don’t pay $5.99 like I did.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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