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TIT

'The Hunt' [Blu-ray+DVD+Digital]
(Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, et al / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital / R / 2020 / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

Overview: In this subversive satire, a group of elites gather for the very first time at a remote Manor House to hunt ordinary Americans for sport.

But the elites' master plan is about to be derailed because one of The Hunted, Crystal (Betty Gilpin, GLOW), knows The Hunters' game better than they do.

She turns the tables on the killers, picking them off one by one as she makes her way toward the mysterious woman (two-time Oscar® winner* Hilary Swank) at the center of it all.

Blu-ray Verdict: I'm not sure a film has ever had to traverse a rockier road to get to audiences than 'The Hunt'! Scheduled to hit the cinema in late-summer of 2019, it was pushed back due to its subject matter supposedly clashing with a number of political/social events at the time (almost a bit ironic considered the film's overall message).

Then, after finally getting a March 2020 release date, a pandemic hits and shuts down all theaters, forcing the movie to be released digital-only.

Throughout that winding road to viewers, 'The Hunt' gained a negative reputation as subversive or dangerous in politically-charged ways, as well as featuring a satirical tone that is potentially off-putting to those either unwilling or unable to look beyond its surface level.

While I would 100% agree that a film like 'The Hunt' doesn't tackle political/social matters in a way movie viewers are used to, it does provide an interesting treatise on the current social landscape through the lens of political stereotypes and biases.

For a very basic overview, 'The Hunt' sees 12 strangers suddenly and inexplicably thrown together out in the middle of nowhere. The initial confusion quickly switches to terror, however, when they realize they are being hunted (presumably for sport) by others.

Through a series of conversations and flashbacks, viewers learn that the hunters are your stereotypical "liberal elites", while the hunted are the "conservative, red state" types. But are things really that simple?

The thing I would stress most to anyone watching 'The Hunt' is to always remember that it is satire at heart. There are groan-inducing wisecracks as people are blown to bits, and cringe-worthy lines of dialogue abound.

But that doesn't make 'The Hunt' a bad movie! I wonder if perhaps the satire genre is a bit of a lost art form in that people now expect movies about social/political themes to be life-or-death serious.

I'm as big of a "heavy drama" fan as anyone, but that isn't the only way to tackle those subjects. Here, the model is to set up a basic Blumhouse Productions film strategy (i.e. slightly ridiculous, but able to appeal to younger audiences).

If made as a sweeping, serious epic, right away more than half the audience base would be cut out from under it.

Of course, the above characterization is only this film's surface-level description. Embedded deep within the Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse-penned script is a surprisingly deft characterization of the current sociopolitical landscape.

While at first 'The Hunt' comically leans into stereotypes, it then deconstructs them and ultimately turns into a compelling treatise on how "both sides of the aisle" share the same common problems. One just has to look past the surface-level buffoonery to get there.

Perhaps the biggest criticism levied against 'The Hunt' has been that it simply panders to political stereotypes. In my opinion that couldn't be further from the truth - again, as long as one realizes the tone is comic/satirical in nature.

For all the world this film seems like an exercise in ridiculousness, but there's a reason the pig pictured prominently in the film's marketing is named Orwell!

Overall, 'The Hunt' is a brilliant social/political skewering camouflaged as a cheesy, over-the-top action/thriller. It isn't shallow, by any means, nor is it overly pompous.

In these "all or nothing" political times, however, it may be odd or perplexing to some to see the issues chuckled at rather than the gnashing of teeth.

If you can get past or embrace the satire, however, there are spot-on messages here that will/should make both conservatives and liberals stop and think a bit. And isn't that all we can really ask for, coming from films such as these?

In short, from the opening assault on the abductees, which is chock full of cartoonish gore, to the wonderfully executed, lengthy and very brutal final fight scene between Crystal and Athena (Hilary Swank), the leader of the liberals, 'The Hunt' is pure, unadulterated fun!

The playful script by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof delivers a few neat surprises regarding the nature of some of the characters (although we never do find out whether Don is 'in on it' or not), whilst director Craig Zobel displays a lot of flair for both action and comedy.

With Betty Gilpin (doing her best Villanelle impression!) lines such as "Depends on whether they're smart pretending to be idiots or idiots pretending to be smart," and some of the featured actors that pop up including Ike Barinholtz, Wayne Duvall, Ethan Suplee, Emma Roberts, Christopher Berry, Sturgill Simpson, Kate Nowlin, Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Glenn Howerton, Hannah Alline (flight attendant), and Usman Ally, from the outset 'The Hunt' strives for self-importance by comparing itself to George Orwell's 'Animal House' (whilst at the same time throwing in an errand nod to Bruce Willis' 2003 flick, 'Tears Of The Sun.')

In my humble opinion, 'The Hunt' isn't as compelling as last year's underappreciated gem 'Ready Or Not,' but it's a hoot to watch -- and as an added bonus, Hilary Swank teaches us the proper way to make a grilled cheese sandwich!

In the stand out special features to me, having now watched 'The Hunt' twice in three days, 'Crafting The Hunt' is a rather in depth and revealing featurette that features the filmmakers and cast discussing how costumes and props were used to highlight the political commentary of this slaughterous thriller.

It should also be mentioned that 'Athena vs. Crystal: Hunter or Hunted?' is another solid featurette that takes us behind the scenes with a look at the intense training and choreography actresses Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank had to master in order to execute their epic kitchen/front room/stairwell/patio fight scene! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.39:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:

Crafting The Hunt
Death Scene Breakdowns
Athena vs. Crystal: Hunter or Hunted?

'The Hunt' arrives on Digital May 26th, 2020 and on Blu-ray™and DVD June 9th, 2020 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Official 'The Hunt' Trailer

'The Hunt' @ Twitter

'The Hunt' @ Facebook

'The Hunt' @ Instagram

www.TheHunt.movie

www.UPHE.com





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