Nowhere in this linguistic snake pit did the US president ever specify what film had kicked off his daily tantrum, but the media soon pointed the finger at The Hunt Full Movie– a politically-minded remake of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, where the rich boast about hunting down “deplorables” for sport.
“Liberal Hollywood is racist at the highest level, and with great anger and hate!” Donald Trump tweeted on 9 August 2019. “The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others.”
Fox News, naturally, went into overdrive. And, in light of the Dayton and El Paso shootings, Universal decided it was best to pull the film from its release schedule and curb the conservative fury.
But The Hunt Full Movie is back. Maybe the studio reckoned the American Right would be too distracted yelling about Bernie Sanders to notice the film quietly creeping into theatres. And along with it comes the damning realisation that this self-styled controversy brewer is nothing but a damp squib.
No one could possibly be offended by The Hunt, because that would require it to contain at least one comprehensible idea. Instead, the film lines up trigger words – “Fatf***er-in-chief!” “Deplorables!” “F***ing snowflake!” “Godless elite!” – collected by people whose only interest is in repeatedly prodding at the country’s political divide like a child shoving his hand through the bars of a tiger’s cage. In truth, its ideas are about as legible as Trump’s tweets on the subject. Whatever wit or nuance Damon Lindelof may have brought to HBO’s Watchmen series has here collapsed into some deep intellectual void (he co-wrote the screenplay alongside Nick Cuse).
In The Hunt, 12 strangers are drugged, kidnapped, and dropped off in an undisclosed patch of woodland. They’re left with a crate full of weapons and one fancily dressed piglet, plus just enough time to snap back into consciousness before the bullets start flying and several of them get their heads blown off. It doesn’t take long for them to clock on to what’s happening. Reddit has been thick with conspiracies about something called “Manorgate” (of course it had to be a “-gate”), where a group of coastal elites have taken it upon themselves to hunt and kill “rednecks” and “hicks” like them.
Lindelof and Cuse are playing the role of disengaged centrists here – the hunted screech about “crisis actors” and gun rights just as much as the hunters obsess over cultural appropriation and having tweets liked by Ava DuVernay. But it’s one thing to cart out the usual parodies of conservatives and liberals for cheap laughs, quite another to try and squeeze in one of the most nonsensical literary allusions ever put to film as an attempt to offer serious political commentary. Absolutely nothing about this film is in any way connected to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, yet The Hunt loudly insists otherwise and then does nothing to expand on it – all we get is a couple of name drops and a pig in a dress.
Director Craig Zobel tries to fill in the gaps with gleeful violence and stunt casting. Emma Roberts turns up in an itchy blonde wig and Hilary Swank coolly monologues about gruyère. At the centre of it all is GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, whose permanent scowl, rock-solid fists, and survivor impulse lead her to become the film’s de facto hero. Audiences are meant to root for her simply because she seems to have no credence or convictions outside of her own self-protection. According to The Hunt, it’s actually better just not to care.