Craig Zobel's "The Hunt" is a film that was marred by controversy well before it was even released. Out of respect for the victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings in August 2019, Universal shelved the film, and that's on top of early test screenings (falsely) reporting that audiences were uncomfortable with the political nature of the film. It wasn't until several months later that the film finally got its full release (cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic), where it faced an onslaught of very mixed opinions. Were some critics perhaps being a bit too harsh, or was there a little something more here to enjoy than they would have you believe?
As the film opens, we find Athena Stone (Hilary Swank) in a group text discussing an upcoming "hunt" of people, which we soon discover is quite real. A group of 11 captives awaken to find themselves gagged near a clearing in which is a stash of weapons. While trying to figure out their situation, they are attacked, leaving several of them dead. We mainly begin to follow Crystal Creasey (Betty Gilpin) as she tries to survive this horrific ordeal, which some of the survivors discover is very similar to a conspiracy theory known as "Manorgate," that tells of a hunt much like this. Having no idea what's real or who she can trust, Crystal has to do her best to face a multitude of obstacles in order to have a chance of surviving.
Reactions for "The Hunt" seemed to fall mainly into two camps: those that were not fans of its seeming political slant, and those that were able to enjoy it for the wild, over-the-top ride that it is. After finally seeing what could be considered the most controversial film of the year, I find myself firmly entrenched in the second camp. That being said, in all honesty, if you're watching a film like this hoping to find any kind of deep political meaning, then you're watching it for the completely wrong reason in the first place.
While the film is far from being great or anything, it is highly entertaining in that the screenplay (written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, who both worked on "Watchmen" and "The Leftovers") features lots of fun twists and turns that have you questioning everything that is happening right along with Crystal, who has to try to see through the facades that the hunters have set up in this nightmare scenario. On top of that, you get two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank hamming it up as the main villain, along with a fine turn from Betty Gilpin as the main badass captive. And that's not to mention the spectacularly bonkers final confrontation between the two.
When it comes right to it, "The Hunt" is a silly, fast-paced thriller that does what it sets out to do: entertain the audience for its brief runtime of under 90 minutes. Sure, it may have a political slant (the hunters refer to their victims as "deplorables" right up front), but who really cares when the film is able to engaging enough without the satirical material? Again, it's not particularly going to blow your mind or anything, but for those wanting a brief, amusing thriller, it could be just what you're looking for.
"The Hunt" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The image is remarkably sharp and clear throughout the entire presentation, allowing you to see just about every detail of the film's wild and gory nature. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally impressive, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in excellent quality. Overall, Universal has given this controversial little thriller fantastic treatment for its Blu-ray debut, leaving you with the usual stunning experience.
Crafting the Hunt (5 Minutes): A brief behind-the-scenes featurette that explores the film's characters and story.
Death Scene Breakdowns (3 Minutes): As the title implies, this is a quick look at the film's gory kills.
Athena vs. Crystal: Hunter or Hunted? (3 Minutes): A neat look at the creation of the film's climactic fight sequence.
"The Hunt" may turn some viewers off with its thinly-veiled political leanings and somewhat extreme moments of violence, but for those able to accept it as the wild, over-the-top ride that it is, it can be a highly-entertaining and amusing thriller that keeps you engaged for its rather brief runtime.