Zach Gilbert’s review published on Letterboxd:
While it’s nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is, The Hunt offers up just enough gnarly grindhouse thrills amongst its satirical and suspenseful story to amount to an engaging - if uneven - diversion.
It’s somewhat amusing that one of The Hunt’s central messages is focused around admonishing people for taking a bit of information out of context, pushing it through one’s own perspective, and passing this altered assertion off as fact, when that’s exactly what happened to this film when word leaked about its “controversial” plot last August. And yes, as any rational human being would assume, there is more to the movie than the right wing news pundits’ “HOLLYWOOD MAKES MOVIE ABOUT LIBERAL ELITES HUNTING CONSERVATIVES!” uproar indicated. While the core concept of The Hunt does involve a riff on Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game with ultra left-wingers “dispatching some deplorables,” it’s not like the movie paints these individuals as “virtuous” and “heroic” by any means. In fact, The Hunt really doesn’t paint any character in an admirable light - aside from Betty Gilpin’s courageous and charismatic Crystal - as it rather tries to call out the insane extremism on both sides of the political spectrum and illustrate how these behaviors have devastatingly damaged our cultural discourse beyond repair.
Co-writers Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are most certainly no Jordan Peele. This isn’t any sort of sophisticated social satire on the level of Get Out or Us by any means, and it doesn’t even come close to matching those films’ brilliant balance of horror and comedy. Hell, The Hunt doesn’t even scale the somewhat smaller but still stupendous heights of fellow Blumhouse political thrillers from James DeMonaco, The Purge: Anarchy or The Purge: Election Year. The Hunt is definitely a surface level study of this current moment in our culture, but that doesn’t mean it’s without any sort of virtue or significance whatsoever. It message(s) may be muddled, and it may beat you over the head with PC buzzwords, but at the end of the day, you are ultimately left contemplating some intriguing inquiries about who is to blame for our contemporary catastrophe (one side? both side? no sides?) and how “truth” can take on a different meaning when viewed through the prism of one’s own political party. Likewise, The Hunt tackles our social media struggles in a bracing (if rather blunt) manner, asking us to contemplate the types of consequences that one should endure for words they say on the Internet, if any. The film makes you fill in a lot of the blanks, and it feels like it’s juggling a bit too many timely topics, but there’s some interesting observations that are made nevertheless.
There are a plethora of notable names found in The Hunt’s cast list, but Betty Gilpin just goddamn runs away with the whole film as the plucky and powerful protagonist, Crystal. The less you know about Crystal’s background, the better (and the ultimate revelations are mightily satisfying and serve the film’s main messages quite well), as she bursts onto the screen with a shine and a snark that render any traditional character introduction insignificant. Gilpin doesn’t need to demand your attention; she earns it off of her commanding control of this character from the first frame until the last. As we traverse through the film’s twists and turns with Crystal as our conduit into this chaos, Gilpin keeps the whole affair quite grounded, and even when others may seem ”out-of-place“ or “over-the-top,” Crystal keeps our commitment until the very end. Her interactions with Hilary Swank’s atrocious Athena (the character, not the exceptional actress) are the highlight of the film by far, and their dynamic discussions rival any previous action scene the film has to offer. If you’re on the fence about seeing The Hunt (and unlikely to be egregiously offended by it), you should know it’s worth seeing for these two terrific thespians alone.
The Hunt desperately wants to be a smart and snappy social satire in the vein of Get Out, but its muddled messaging and surface level storytelling keep it from ascending such heavenly heights. Nevertheless, thanks to Betty Gilpin’s potent lead performance and some compelling commentary, it justifies its existence and proves to be worth a watch for anyone willing to embrace its even-handed ridicule.