‘I’ ON CULTURE
The Hunt is a movie that probably never should have been made. It is a politicized version of the old short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, but designed to offend just about everyone. Filled with political violence, it is a kind of Rorschach test of politically vile sentiments. It is easy to find someone to hate.
The basic notion is that a group of rich, left-leaning “elites,” led by Athena (Hilary Swank) choose a group of “deplorables,” transport them to a field and start hunting them down. Of course, the elites have every advantage. First of all, the hunted, characterized as “right-wing nuts,” all of them shown as vile and stupid, have no idea what is happening at first. That makes killing them, almost always from ambush, sort of easy. The right-wingers, who are quick to blame the “Deep State,” have also been presented as people who like to kill endangered species, so the elites look on the killings as simple justice.
But there is a ringer in there. For some reason, Crystal (Betty Gilpin) has been included in the hunted group. She is actually apolitical. She is also more than a bit sociopathic, but she is the “Rainsford” character from the early short story; an expert at hunting. And she turns the tables, calmly, coolly killing the elites. That, as you might expect, ruins their fun. They clearly prefer to do unto those they dislike and certainly not have the “deplorables” return the favor. There is killing galore, or to put it simply, lots of gore.
It is actually far more fun to read reviews of the film than actually see it — unless, of course, you are a fan of slasher movies. Movie critics from the left see the film as merely a manifestation of right-wing paranoia. Of course, those wise souls who get their information from MSNBC are too evolved to even think about this violence. But those more conservative point out the stereotyping of those selected to be victims.
The movie seems to revel in this tribe-building. Those on the left feel they are far smarter than those on the right and, smugly, really believe that killing them makes the world a better place for all of us. Their world is that of Thanos, of Avengers fame: Kill half the universe and the others will live in paradise. And those on the right live in The Hunger Games: the elites despise the rest of us and push us down so they can move up.
The real truth is that, as Gandhi pointed out, in “an eye for an eye” world, everyone is blind. One of the glories of democracy is that those who lose are not the enemy but the opposition. When you lose an election, you congratulate the winner and plan to win the next one. If, instead, it seems that you conspire to invalidate that election, resentment builds. In Britain, for example, the elitists blocked Brexit for four years after the public voted for it, despite the fact that they had promised to support it. Films like this one only promote the wildest views, which is not a great idea at a time of crisis.
That does not mean that this wrong-headed movie has been made badly. That would be too easy. Director Craig Zobel keeps up the tension level quite well. You might want to nap and miss a real mess, but this is a bit too well made. The cast is surprisingly good, even though many of the roles turn out to be not more than cameos as people die. The one performer that really stands out is Gilpin. Her Crystal is probably the most nuanced character, even if she is a sociopath. But her really good work leaves us someone to at least root for. No matter how well done, it is hard to get behind morons and bigots… on both sides.
Please avoid this one. Even more, do not see it when it hits On Demand, which could happen very soon. At a time when we really need to work together to overcome a nasty virus, this is far worse than a distraction. And, unfortunately, this may wind up being the last movie I’ll see for a while. That same virus is causing the postponement of many of the films that fill up the theaters. So let’s all hope that it is over soon, and we can get back to normal life, with very few casualties.