Combustible Celluloid
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With: Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank, Justin Hartley, Glenn Howerton, Amy Madigan, Ethan Suplee, Macon Blair, J. C. MacKenzie, Wayne Duvall, Reed Birney, Teri Wyble, Sturgill Simpson, Jim Klock, Usman Ally, Steve Coulter, Dean West, Steve Mokate
Written by: Nick Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Directed by: Craig Zobel
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout
Running Time: 89
Date: 03/13/2020

The Hunt (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Kill of Rights

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Insanely gory, but also fiendishly funny, this clever dark satire takes an old, familiar scenario and uses it to boldly skewer both red and blue Americans, painting both behaviors as equally absurd.

In The Hunt, a woman, Athena (Hilary Swank) texts with a group of liberal friends, discussing "the hunt," in which they will go out and kill a group of "deplorables." Later, a man wakes up to find himself on a plane. The well-dressed people tell him he "woke up too soon" and kill him. Then, more people wake up, gagged, in the woods.

They discover a crate full of guns and other weapons, but before long, they are being shot at and killed. Only Crystal (Betty Gilpin) seems wise enough to stay a jump ahead of her tormenters. Using her wits and some kind of elite training, she fights her way to the end of the puzzle and faces off with its chief architect, Athena. But nothing is quite as it seems.

The Hunt is brightly, cheerfully in control of its situation, like a master comedian working the room. It seems to have done what few others could even imagine, which is to correctly parody the attributes both extremes of American political beings, without anger or hate. It merely finds everyone preposterous.

Director Craig Zobel, who also questioned the worst of human behaviors in Compliance, and co-writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof (of the Watchmen TV series), start The Hunt with a series of shocks. They break all the rules and let us know that anything is possible, that whatever is going to happen will likely happen before we're ready for it. The movie is smooth, fast-moving, and intricately designed.

If it has a flaw, it lies in Gilpin's Crystal character. She's amazingly cool, resourceful, and appealing in her slow, thoughtful way of speaking. But she tips the balance of the political satire, making it not quite an equal roasting of both sides. However, she's so fascinating — and mysterious — that this is an easy thing to forgive.

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