Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Hunt – a sardonic gorefest (UK and Irish cinemas from 11 March)

A handful of gagged oddbods wake up in a green field and find a stash of weapons. But it’s soon apparent that they’re ill-equipped to defend themselves against their hunters. But don’t choose a favourite character too quickly as The Hunt very quickly becomes gruesome and stays bloody until its almost dance-like finish.
“Nothing better than going out to the Manor and slaughtering a dozen deplorables”

Why a group of business elites would think that it was possible to get away with – and survive – this dastardly weekend activity is never properly justified. And why they’d be so blasé about their own number becoming collateral damage in the fightback is part of the reality that needs to suspended in order to enter into the film’s universe and find entertainment.

Directed by Craig Zobel and co-written by Damon Lindelof, The Hunt’s most interesting character emerges as Crystal, played by Betty Gilpin with sardonic wit and a great sense of timing. Her retelling of The Tortoise and the Hare is worthy of something Martin McDonagh might have slipped into his play The Pillowman. She’s more than a match for any of her fellow deplorables and is overequipped to fight back against the hunters. The final highly choreographed fight scene is beautiful to watch but quite fanciful.

The sense of a game board ever expanding until the prey are never certain what is real and what is truly part of their own personal hell is well executed. There’s a lot of grim humour wrapped around ghastly injuries and deaths, though the special effect for bodies exploding into smithereens is a little overused.

The idea of a pig called Orwell is good until you realise that the references to Animal Farm are ill-fitting and the ‘Snowball’ character makes no sense. There may well be an allegory buried inside The Hunt, but it’s pretty illusive. Instead we watch as a bunch of rich ne'er-do-wells take revenge against people that they dislike, proving that the rich have no sense and deserve whatever comeuppance is meted out against them. The elite are (mostly) liberal – a sugared drink is described as poisonous, though would the truly woke actually joke about pro-choice, race and gender in the way they do? – but despite picking up on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rhetoric, it’s hard to buy into the trap that they would be Trump haters or Trump supporters. Any why the complete lack of remorse when their friends are gunned down one at a time? The satire is spread very thin over a slightly stale sour dough bagel of plot.

Last year’s Ready or Not was funnier and had a more satisfying ending. But if you want to escape into a repulsive world where life is little valued and another death is only ever just around the corner, then this is the film for you.

After a delay of five and a half months, The Hunt is released in UK and Irish cinemas on Wednesday 11 March (ahead of its US release on Friday 13 March).

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