Review by Ryan
Richard Connell’s 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game” has inspired a number of filmed variations on its theme, with The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Bloodlust! (1961), and Surviving the Game (1993) being just a few of the premise’s many permutations. 2020’s The Hunt updates the humans-as-prey scenario for a politically polarized twenty-first-century America, with a culling of blue-collar nobodies from across the country stalked by a coterie of wealthy, bored, and contemptuous cosmopolitans looking for some especially piquant kicks. Inspired partly by online phenomena such as “Pizzagate” and various theories involving “crisis actors” and the like, The Hunt is very much a commentary on the seemingly irreconcilable differences of culture, morality, and epistemology that divide Americans today as well as the rancors engendered by class conflict and intensifying income inequality. Writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof have cleverly contrived a versatile multipurpose screenplay with two very different audiences in mind, so that The Hunt will validate elements of the worldviews of both conservatives and liberals, with something guaranteed to please and offend everyone who watches. Right-populists will be inclined to sympathize with the harried and bumbling bumpkins and working-class schlubs victimized by “globalist cucks” and a “godless elite”, while progressives are invited to participate in the sadism of, for instance, a liberal who dispatches a “deplorable” and gloats, “Climate change is real.” Neither side is depicted very flatteringly, with gullible and unsophisticated rednecks and obnoxious woke quibblers alike being caricatured. Even those who tire of the decades-trite cliché of the beautiful-superhuman-warrior-woman-who’s-smarter-and-tougher-than-every-man, however, will find it difficult not to root for enigmatic and resourceful heroine Crystal, a veteran who just wants to be left alone and whose involvement in the deadly game results from a case of mistaken identity. Actress Betty Gilpin manages to imbue what could have been an entirely off-putting character with an individuality that makes her impersonable rudeness tolerable. The aptly named Hilary Swank, meanwhile, is believably cast as the smug but formidable huntress Athena. Anybody who enjoys an expectation-bending survival story like Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007), Cabin in the Woods (2011), or Tank 432 (2015) – and doesn’t mind a splatter of potentially upsetting graphic bloodletting – should definitely make a point of tracking down this conversation-starter.