(US - 2020)
Directed by Craig Zobel. Written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Cast: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Wayne Duvall, Glenn Howerton, Reed Birney, Sturgill Simpson, Macon Blair, Christopher Berry, Kate Nowlin, Steve Coulter, Dean J. West, Vince Pisani, Teri Wyble, Usman Ally, Steve Mokate, Walker Babington, Sylvia Grace Crim, Jason Kirkpatrick, J.C. McKenzie, Tadasay Young, Hannah Alline. (R, 90 mins)
Originally set to open in September 2019, the Blumhouse production THE HUNT had its advertising suspended by Universal after a string of mass shootings in August. Then its release was canceled entirely once Fox News informed President Trump that it was about conservative "deplorables" being hunted for sport by the liberal elite, sort-of like a MOST DANGEROUS GAME-meets-BATTLE ROYALE for the Rachel Maddow crowd. Several months later, THE HUNT has resurfaced--prefaced by a new and inferior trailer that reveals a little too much--with the hype of being "the movie they didn't want you to see," just in time for the inevitability of US movie theaters closing due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. After that six-month delay, is it worth the hype? Not really. Though if anyone on the right had actually bothered to watch THE HUNT before condemning it as dangerous propaganda from the loony left, they would've seen that it takes far more potshots at liberals than it does conservatives, and that its right-leaning "final girl" is actually the smartest and most likable character in the film.
COMPLIANCE) has fun staging some outrageously gory kills with near-Troma levels of comedic splatter. The script by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof seems adrift as far as what it's trying to accomplish. LOST co-creator Lindelof's involvement is almost certainly where the twists and turns come from, but the political satire is rather toothless, and its shots too easy. A few jabs land: one of the elite liberals crowing about his tweet getting a like from Ana DuVernay, or another wearing a kimono and being accused of cultural appropriation, and their hiring a trainer who was in the National Guard (Steve Mokate), and whose resume includes working as a technical adviser on the Bruce Willis movie TEARS OF THE SUN ("What's that? Is that like, a real title? Was it even in theaters?" they snark). I guess the problem with THE HUNT's political and social satire is that it isn't doing anything other than stating the obvious. It seems to be suffering from the "both sides"-ism that permeates today's news coverage, and as such, it errs on the side of caution by the bulk of the meaner gags being at the expense of the cartoonish liberals.
RED STATE, and its references and allusions to Animal Farm have all the analytical depth of a procrastinating high schooler's lit class essay cribbed from Wikipedia the morning that it was due. Where it does excel is as a showcase for GLOW's Gilpin, and in a better movie, this would be a star-making breakout. Right from the start, something seems off-kilter about Crystal and her instant grasp on the situation, as if Athena and the others have severely misjudged their prized quarry. In the wrong hands, this kind of reliance on tics, weird facial expressions, nervous sounds, and other oddball eccentricities could've resulted in a mannered, quirky disaster, but Gilpin manages to make Crystal endearingly strange. It's an intriguingly bizarre performance that's the unquestioned highlight of THE HUNT, a live-action comments section that's just a bit too pleased with itself and nowhere near the scorching hot take that it thinks it is.