Controversial film ‘The Hunt’ struggles to live up to satire expectations

We’ve seen a lot of controversy and notorious material dividing audiences the moment the ending credits appear, especially in today’s political climate. But when a movie is labeled “The most controversial movie of the year,” there has to be something else to it. 

“The Hunt” has been causing controversy since day one. Its premise and trailer that served as a political satire on the division between liberals and conservatives put a lot of people off, on top of the fact that the film was delayed from its Sept. 27 opening date after the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings. After watching the film itself, despite its controversy, I have to say that this movie isn’t what many are likely to believe. In fact, it’s quite decent.

The premise of “The Hunt” is that 12 outsiders are inexplicably chosen and pitted against one another in a secluded location where they are being hunted down by a group of liberal elites. However, once Crystal (Betty Gilpin) realizes what’s going on and retaliates, the game takes a turn for the worst, leaving the hunters to become the hunted.

For starters, the main and supporting cast provide quality performances, as it looks like they’re having the time of their lives with the material.

The highlight of the film is Betty Gilpin as the incredibly witted and combative Crystal. Her line delivery is spot-on and delivers on the satisfying, gory action mayhem hunting the elites one by one. But as a character who is stuck in a bad situation, she’s written to be your basic strong female protagonist trope without an endearing or relatable trait about her.

What makes the piece of political satire so unique is how darkly humorous it is. Whether it’s the combination of well-timed jokes mixed with grind-house style violence, or moments in which the film pokes fun at both sides of the political spectrum, the film knows where to land its dark humor at the best possible scenes.

The movie has on-the-nose references and easy jokes that feel unnecessary. Some instances include elites calling the hostages that they use to hunt for sport “deplorables,” and calling each other “cucks” or “snowflakes.” There’s even one character whose entire characterization is being a right-wing conspiracy theorist. The jokes in the movie are heavy-handed because in order to make fun of its own character for being on different sides of politics, it goes for the most facile jokes and references without any sense of cleverness.

I understand that this movie is supposed to be a political satire on the division of modern politics in America, and that’s fine, if only the side characters and villains weren’t charismatic or one-dimensional. Too bad the majority of them are downright caricatures, simply designed to be one-dimensional characters without enough screen time to know what they are about, or written as one-note jokes that feel typical, forced and unnatural.

Even with its controversial reputation, “The Hunt” is a soft recommendation for those curious. The film has flaws to boot, flimsily written characters, on-the-nose callbacks and jokes that don’t register all too well, but it doesn’t disappoint on its unique premise, splendid gory action and delicious dark comedy.