Review of “The Hunt”

Twelve people, including Crystal (Betty Gilpin), Gary (Ethan Suplee), Don (Wayne Duvall) and Big Red (Kate Nowlin), wake up in a field. They’re all from different parts of the country and don’t know how they got there. Soon, they are being shot at by a group of wealthy liberal Social Justice Warriors. Some of them escape the field and find a small roadside gas station and convenience store run by Ma and Pop (Amy Madigan and Reed Birney) who tell the group they are in Arkansas. When Crystal finds the store, she suspects there’s more to the kindly old couple than meets the eye and kills them both. Crystal also discovers she’s not in Arkansas and realizes she is a target of rich people that hunt humans for sport on an estate called The Manor. The Manor has been the subject of internet rumors since it was first exposed by an email hack. The leader of the hunters is Athena (Hilary Swank), a powerful and ruthless businessperson looking to exact revenge on those she feels have slighted her. But what could these 12 random people, unknown to each other from around the country, have done to Athena and her friends.

Originally scheduled for a late September 2019 release, “The Hunt” was pulled from the schedule by the distributor, Universal Studios, following mass shootings that occurred in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Once the subject matter of the film, a battle to the death between wealthy liberals and working-class conservatives, became known, Fox News and President Trump trashed the movie, making assumptions it would belittle conservatives and cram the liberal agenda down audiences’ throats. As with most things discussed with no knowledge, they got it exactly wrong. “The Hunt” should thrill fans of the President, as it shows the “wealthy elite” as brain dead and concerned more about labels and gendering than the plight of everyday Americans. It also shows them as bloodthirsty and intolerant while conservatives are shown to be susceptible to the conspiracy theories of people like Alex Jones and diehard supporters of the Second Amendment and strong boarders. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tweet from the President or one of his sons extolling the virtues of “The Hunt” as more of a documentary than a fictional film. It’s a shame COVID-19 has depressed movie going as “The Hunt” is a fun and gory satire on America’s current political divide and the dangers of extremism on both sides.

“The Hunt” features a powerhouse performance from Betty Gilpin. Playing a confident and prepared woman who is no one’s victim, Gilpin exudes confidence and power in every frame. Crystal is wary and distrusting of everything she sees once she wakes up in the field. Keeping herself separated from the others, she survives the initial attack and forges her own path. I believe it’s an example of how everyone should navigate the current political minefield by not accepting everything said by pundits, vloggers, bloggers and podcasters as pure, unvarnished truth. She casts a wary and skeptical eye on everyone presenting themselves as allies, not taking what they say at face value. Crystal represents the reasonable but skeptical consumer of information: Listening attentively, but not believing it all. We should all try to be our own “Crystal.”

Most of the ire from the film’s perspective is aimed at the liberals. They fret over labels and gendering of groups. They select a person for death because he’s a big game hunter, ignoring their own hypocrisy. They don’t choose a black conservative because of the optics, even though they are the only ones that will know. It’s a cascade of jokes at the expense of the liberal elite with one of them saying, “White people, we’re the f***ing worst.”

Conservatives don’t escape the critical eye as those with numerous guns, anti-immigrant beliefs and the racially intolerant being mocked. Actually, they aren’t mocked, they are allowed to express their thoughts and the audience is allowed to decide if they are laughably ignorant or not. It’s a remarkably fair examination of ideas from both sides. My opinion on both sides is they are too extreme in both directions to be allowed to run the country unfettered. But that’s just me. You might need to risk leaving your home to see the film for yourself and make up your own mind.

Part of the marketing for “The Hunt” is the tagline, “The Most Talked About Movie of the Year is One That No One’s Actually Seen.” It’s a brilliant use of the controversy surrounding the film to sell it. If not for the fear of contracting COVID-19 it might have worked beautifully. It also speaks to the failure of our clickbait-driven social media world. A salacious headline for a link to a far less controversial article will be read a million times, while the article itself may only be read half a million times. The link will be shared or retweeted by the ignorant half a million with an angry comment declaring a government agency, celebrity or other entity is preparing to wipe us all out or wants to kill and eat babies when the story is far more tame and reasonable. Mark Twain once said that a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on. Only he didn’t. The quote likely came far earlier from Jonathon Swift. See, you need to question everything you read and the motivations from everyone from whom you hear it. Even me.

“The Hunt” is rated R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout. Heads explode, bodies explode, people are impaled on various items including arrows and spikes in the ground. One person is beaten severely with a pipe. A pig is shot to death. A Cuisinart is used as a deadly weapon. A pen is jammed on one person’s neck. A high heel is used to stab someone in the eye. There are numerous other violent and gory deaths. Foul language is common but not overwhelming.

“The Hunt” has had the worst timing of any film in modern history. First its release was delayed due to two mass shootings that attracted the ire of those that blame such things on popular media like video games and movies despite evidence to the contrary. Then COVID-19 became a serious threat with a death rate five times higher than the seasonal flu a week or so before the film’s rescheduled release. While the movie has a less than original story arc, like horror films featuring a “last girl,” “The Hunt” approaches the toxic political climate with equal doses of humor and exaggeration. Liberals and conservatives alike should find things to love and hate in the film and, to me, that means it must be doing something right, annoying good people on both sides.

“The Hunt” gets four blood-soaked stars out of five.

Because of the COVID-19 threat, there isn’t a new wide release scheduled until April 10. Whether I’ll watch some films that have been out a few weeks, watch some original releases on the streaming services, or just stay home, I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know when I figure it out. Stay safe, wash your hands, don’t go to work if you’re sick, don’t hoard supplies and be good to each other. For more information:

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Review of “Snatched”

Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) has hit a rough patch with being fired from her retail clothing job and being dumped by her musician boyfriend. The only thing she has to look forward to is a trip to Ecuador she was originally planning on taking with her boyfriend. Now, unable to find anyone to go with her, Emily asks her mom Linda (Goldie Hawn). At first reluctant to even consider asking her, Emily finds a scrapbook her mother has kept showing photos of Linda on adventures in Great Britain and ticket stubs from David Bowie and Rolling Stones concerts she attended in her youth. Now mostly homebound taking care of her cats and her adult son, the agoraphobic Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), Linda is afraid of the outside world and Emily wants to rekindle the spirit of adventure that once burned within her mother. With great trepidation, Linda decides to go. Constantly wrapped head to toe to avoid the harsh sun, Linda is constantly prodding the bikini-clad Emily to be careful. Having a drink at the bar, Emily is approached by James (Tom Bateman) who takes her out for a wild night on the town including a pop-up party in the jungle. Drunk and deliriously happy, Emily makes plans with James for the next day and he suggests she bring Linda along. While driving through the remote countryside their car is struck by a van knocking Emily and Linda unconscious. Waking up in a makeshift prison cell, the ladies realize they have been kidnapped. Their captor Morgado (Oscar Jaenada) is a ruthless thug that makes his living abducting tourists then demanding a random from their family. Morgado calls Jeffrey and demands $100-thousand for Emily and Linda’s return. Jeffrey contacts the State Department and is told there isn’t anything they can do unless the ladies find their way to a U.S. Consulate. Linda and Emily manage to escape but kill one of Morgado’s men in the process. With no money, no cell phone and no Spanish language skills, the mother/daughter combo must put aside their differences and figure out a way to get home before Morgado takes his revenge for killing one of his men.

Amy Schumer is a powerhouse standup comic and is turning into a bankable movie star. While she is surely polarizing to many in the public, one cannot argue her fearlessness both on stage and on screen. “Trainwreck” made $140-million worldwide and showed she could turn out her fans for the opening of a movie. Never straying far from her in-your-face style of standup, Schumer has bulldozed her way into theatres once again in “Snatched” and while this may not be the box office juggernaut of her debut there is plenty of evidence to show Schumer is on the big screen to stay.

While the mother/daughter-bonding-while-kidnapped premise of “Snatched” is utterly silly, the winning combination of Schumer and Goldie Hawn and their playful yet biting banter overcomes a paper-thin story with the help of some scene-stealing supporting characters played by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack. The two main players never stumble into annoying territory as their responses to being kidnapped never explode into full blown histrionics.

Schumer seems to be settling into her role as a movie star. It doesn’t hurt that she is playing the same character as you would see in her standup routines: Fearless, clueless and crude. Staying in familiar territory will work well for perhaps one more movie; but after that, Schumer will either need to get with an acting coach to expand her range or expect ever decreasing returns from her next releases.

Goldie Hawn (on whom I admit I had a crush on when I was a child and she was dancing in a bikini and covered in body paint on Laugh-In) feels a bit wooden in her performance as Linda. While the character is frightened of what might be out there in the big, mean world, Hawn seems petrified at times when it isn’t appropriate and unfazed when it is. According to this is Hawn’s first film role in 15 years and I’m sorry to say it somewhat shows.

Despite my issues with Hawn my biggest problem is with Ike Barinholtz as Jeffrey. Actually, it isn’t with Barinholtz performance but with the inclusion of the character. Jeffrey is the kind of character that is best used in the smallest amount possible. Sadly, he is all over “Snatched” even being used as a catalyst for the film’s conclusion. Jeffrey is about the most annoying thing I’ve seen on film in a long time and could have been left out of the film completely. I’m not sure exactly what the point of including him was. He’s used like comic relief but this is billed as a comedy. His overbearing presence is grating on the nerves and I just wanted him to disappear or perhaps out of nowhere be blown to smithereens by an explosion. No explanation, just BOOM and then he’s gone.

One surprise in the film is the presence of Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as a pair of retired special ops agents called Ruth and Barb. These characters appear to have been plucked from another movie as they don’t seem to fit in the “Snatched” universe; however they are welcome when they arrive and tend to steal every scene they are in. Cusack’s Barb is mute for reasons explained in the film. Her silence is augmented by a brilliant physical performance that speaks louder than any dialog. She and Sykes are an interesting team that might make for an entertaining spinoff film. With the right script I think it would be terrific to see these two tearing up a gang of thugs while wearing their comfortable shoes.

“Snatched” is rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity and language throughout. The crude sexual content is photos in a pornographic magazine that is briefly shown on camera. There is one brief scene where one of Amy Schumer’s breasts is exposed. Foul language is common throughout.

“Snatched” is a silly and crude adventure/comedy that manages to overcome its ridiculous premise and find some laughs. While it is inconsistent with its humor, unable to decide if it wants to be an adventure or a comedy, and has an annoying and largely unnecessary character, “Snatched” still manages to be amusing enough to be worth your time.

“Snatched” gets four stars out of five.

If you’d like to check out my review of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” you can find it here:

This week, alien nasties, childhood catastrophes and teen romance angst all try to unseat “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” from the top of the box office charts. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Alien: Covenant—

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul—

Everything, Everything—

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