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This originally ran on March 13, and we are re-running because of its early VOD drop.
Craig Zobel ’s “The Hunt” is filled with more memes than plot. The incendiary film, which caused much online handwringing last fall, was eventually shelved after the president weighed in with an uninformed opinion. Almost everybody’s opinion came sight unseen because few eyes had even watched “The Hunt” at all. No matter, after much sound and fury the movie is more of a molehill than a mountain. Betty Gilpin deserves better and so do we.
The film opens on a bombastic overture and a stiltedly staged group text that will retroactively become important. We are then whisked onto a luxury jet where the liberal rich are feted and random poor conservatives from different parts of the country have been drugged and tucked out-of-sight in the back of the plane. The next scene opens on the kidnapped victims waking up gagged and heading towards a mysterious box in a field, like the cornucopia from “ The Hunger Games .” Once their restraints are off and the shooting begins, the most dangerous game’s afoot.
It’s easier to single out what I enjoyed about the movie before delving into its messy politics. There are a handful of thrilling, suspenseful sequences like the first shootout in the field and some hand-to-hand combat. Zobel leans into the exploitative possibilities of recreating Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game for a new audience, including bloody boobytraps, a grenade thrown down a guy’s pants and many, many painful-looking splattery wounds from arrows, knives and bullets.
Standing tall and stern-faced in the middle of the violent squall is Crystal (Gilpin), the movie’s secret weapon and its saving grace. Hardly any of the other characters on either side of the liberal/conservative divide ever rise above a trite stereotype, and while there’s not too much more depth to Crystal, Gilpin’s performance as a reluctant warrior makes her kind of a hero. She plays Crystal with a tight-lipped and restrained presence, perhaps a holdover from tolerating rotten customers at her car rental agency job. Later, we learn she served in the military, and Gilpin embodies this moving rigidly but quickly, showing that some of her discipline has worn off over the years through a few nervous ticks. Still, her eyes remain on survival and never lets her guard down, like Rambo by way of Mississippi. For those of us who have watched her as Liberty Belle on Netflix’s “Glow,” she’s playing someone completely against type and it’s exhilarating to watch.
Apart from Gilpin, the movie falls apart. The villains in this story are liberal elites lead by a woman named Athena ( Hilary Swank ) who have a preposterous social media backstory fueled by a conspiracy theory known as Manorgate. It’s one of the many borrowed and tweaked headlines used in “The Hunt,” which despite all its copy and pasting of popular terms and internet slurs, doesn’t add up to anything beyond its superficial violence. Written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof , “The Hunt” proves how “both-siderism” doesn’t always logically pan out. How could a pack of liberals easily upset by the sugar in soda, climate change and gendered language turn to kill for sport? Instead, the movie plays into the conspiracy fears about crisis actors and theories that rich liberal elites are out to kill them, and that is where things get less funny.
Zobel, Cuse and Lindelof made a movie to own the libs and the conservatives, which might be the most capitalist (or nihilist) attitude towards politics yet. The unoriginality of “The Hunt” extends to its cinematography, which Darran Tiernan paints with one shade of grey and maroon bloodstains, its unremarkable production design by Matthew Munn , and its stereotype-reaffirming wardrobe from costume designer David Tabbert . The movie is both disposable in its inability to say something—anything!—about the current political climate beyond “Oh, it’s dicey out there,” and as a strange cultural artifact of the times. It’s just as likely that this movie would have flown in and out of theaters without much notice were it not for its momentary blip on social media. Perhaps there’s more of a lesson to be learned from “The Hunt” than what happens in “The Hunt.”
Monica Castillo is a freelance writer and University of Southern California Annenberg graduate film critic fellow. Although she originally went to Boston University for biochemistry and molecular biology before landing in the sociology department, she went on to review films for The Boston Phoenix, WBUR, Dig Boston, The Boston Globe, and co-hosted the podcast “Cinema Fix.”
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The Hunt (2020)
Rated R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout.
Emma Roberts as Yoga Pants
J. C. MacKenzie as Paul
Hilary Swank as Athena
Justin Hartley as Trucker
Ethan Suplee as Gary
Macon Blair as Envoy
Betty Gilpin as Crystal
Ike Barinholtz as Staten Island
Amy Madigan as Ma
Glenn Howerton as Richard
- Craig Zobel
- Damon Lindelof
- Darran Tiernan
- Nathan Barr
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Hunt: Showdown review
Hell is both the living and the dead., our verdict.
Hunt: Showdown is a clever, hard-nosed FPS that doesn't have enough substance to be truly essential yet.
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What is it? Multiplayer hunt-'em-up set in late 1800s Louisiana. Expect to pay: $40/£35 Developer: Crytek Publisher: Crytek Reviewed on: Intel i5-4590 @ 3.3GHz, GeForce GTX 1660, 8 GB RAM Multiplayer: Yes, a mix of cooperative and competitive Link: Official site
In Hunt: Showdown, you don't win. You survive. After the tutorial, I was already on edge and sweaty. Nearly two-dozen hours later, I'm coming out of every round much the same, only with added exhilaration at my near-deaths, kills and cleverly executed traps. Crytek's merging of survival horror and battle royale has resulted in an intense multiplayer FPS, a great foundation that's only let down by a lack of variety—there's just two maps, and relatively few weapons.
Hunt blends Resident Evil 7, PUBG, and Red Dead Redemption 2 together to produce something that's remarkably distinct. The basics are familiar: players choose a loadout, spawn on a marshy patch of dirt and vie for supremacy. The twist is you're not alone, as zombies and other ghouls prowl these knee-high lakes and abandoned cabins. You're on a mission for one creature in particular, your bounty, and have to gather mystical clues to find their exact location.
Set in an alternate history 1890s, a horrifying force is invading through interworld rifts, infecting people and animals and turning them into terrifying mutations. Framed by centuries of mythology from multiple sources, the titular hunters partake in the dark arts and hunt for sport and research. The weaponry is crass and archaic: revolvers, single-shot rifles and crossbows, all requiring slow, manual reload. Machetes and battle-axes are available, if you want to risk the intimacy, and makeshift bombs and bear-traps are handy in a bind. Your greatest asset is your wits, and if you want to last out in the wilderness of Stillwater Bayou, you're going to need them.
Encounters against other players are more nuanced, sometimes coming with unspoken agreements.
My early forays were rough. One time a demented canine chased me right into an Armored, a human-shaped thing with a tumorous-looking outer shell, and in trying to escape I attracted a group of regular undead and was promptly eaten in seconds. The next round, I met a similar fate after successfully getting the first of three clues I needed for the bounty. Thankfully permadeath is disabled until rank 15 so I wasn't forever losing all my loot.
Gradually, I started to find my way, and understand Hunt: Showdown's allure. Proficiency lies cutthroat tenacity and the intuition of survival.
There's no room for hesitation, and through much trial and error I started developing a feel for monitoring how much noise I was making, and switching guns or healing on the fly, and always making sure I knew my exits. Soon, my trusty crossbow and machete and I were getting closer and closer to scoring our first contract, and one blessed night under Stillwater’s beautiful silver moon, I killed the meat-cleaving Butcher and escaped to tell the tale.
A number of graphical options are available from the in-game menu at all times, including object, texture, lighting, shadow and effects quality, and a render resolution scale. Playing with everything on high, the game ran at a relatively smooth 60 fps for the most part, though with a noticeable drop off when a number of human players and NPCs were onscreen. I would recommend switching to medium if your hardware is towards the minimum requirements like mine. I did encounter a launch error when I first installed that a Windows update ironed out, so make sure you're all up to date before booting up.
When you find the three clues, detectable using special vision called Dark Sight, you get the bounty's exact coordinates. Then, if you kill the target in a one-on-one, or two-on-one, or three-on-one fight depending on your group, you have to get to an extraction point at the edge of the map for full completion, which means getting by all remaining opponents as well as whatever hellspawn is still roaming around.
This inversion of the standard battle royale formula—it's about escaping, not killing everyone—is simple but deeply effective. It changes the whole complexion. Encounters against other players are more nuanced, sometimes coming with unspoken agreements. I helped a struggling rival kill a Hive—poisonous wretch—and after we just stared at each other briefly and parted ways. Ammo and supplies are in short supply, so picking a gunfight could severely deplete your inventory, and your only prize is whatever they're carrying.
Up to three players can enter the swamp together, and matches are limited to 12 total players. I mostly played solo, as in-game communication is limited and I preferred not having to worry about or rely on anyone. I could slip by six and seven-person shoot-outs with relative ease, letting them wear themselves out. The mix of mossy quagmire, high-grass forest and timber village allows a variety of approaches once you figure out the landscape.
Hunt: Showdown's primary issue is that by the time you've mapped out the bayou's hideouts and passageways and found a groove with your roster of hunters, a grind sets in quick. The map got repetitive, as did the relatively short list of weapons and three available bounties. After a time the only substantial unlockables are lore, which, though well-written and fascinating, isn't enough to sustain my interest long-term. It all just feels a bit lacking, especially given the price. That said, new options are in the pipeline, and I'm more than willing to get back on the hunt once they arrive.
Correction: An earlier version of this review stated that there is one map, when there are two.
After attracting more players than ever, Crytek isn't done breaking Hunt: Showdown: 'If nobody says don't do that, then it's not actually good enough'
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Hunt review: a confusing, but engaging spy thriller
“Lee Jung-jae announces himself as a filmmaker worth paying attention to with Hunt, a pulse-pounding spy thriller that suffers primarily from its own overly convoluted and confusing plot.”
- Lee Jung-jae's slick, engaging visual style
- Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo Sung's layered lead performances
- A surprisingly complex, thrilling final third
- A repetitive second act
- An overly convoluted plot
- A runtime that could stand to be shorter
Hunt is, to put it mildly, an ambitious film. The new South Korean drama is a spy thriller set during the 1980s that follows the perspectives of two security officials as they try to determine the motives of the other. Structurally and narratively, the film bears more than a few similarities to similar double-agent thrillers like The Departed and Infernal Affairs . In terms of its visuals and scale, however, Hunt is built more like a blockbuster thriller in the same vein as films like The Bourne Ultimatum or Argo .
Chaos (and style) reigns
A confusing story, a promising debut.
That’s a difficult balance for any film to attempt, especially one that’s helmed — as Hunt is — by a first-time director. It’s a wonder then that Hunt works as well as it does. Under the direction of Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae, who also appears in the film as one of its two leads, Hunt is a breakneck, unpredictable spy thriller. Over the course of its 131-minute runtime, the film’s story often wobbles and shakes beneath the weight of its own convoluted ambitions, but it never falls apart.
The fact that Hunt doesn’t ever fully crumble is a testament to not only the film’s engaging visual style, which feels heavily indebted to well-known auteurs like Paul Greengrass and Park Chan-wook, but also its relentless pace and well-choreographed set pieces. Those who make it through the film’s many unnecessary twists and confusing detours will likely find themselves taken aback by the power of Hunt ’s surprisingly satisfying final third.
Based on a screenplay by Lee and Jo Seung-Hee, Hunt opens in absolute chaos. The film’s first sequence follows Park Pyong-ho (Lee), the Foreign Unit chief of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, and Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung), the KCIA’s Domestic Unit chief, as they and their team members all scramble to stop an assassination attempt on South Korea’s president. Throughout the sequence, they race through the streets and buildings of a 1980s version of Washington D.C. that has been taken over by protests.
As far as opening sections go, Hunt ‘s quickly establishes its relentlessly fast pace, which it maintains for the entirety of its runtime, as well as its frenetic, primarily handheld visual style. Unlike many Paul Greengrass imitators, though, Lee never disregards his audience’s sense of geography or continuity merely for the sake of heightening the film’s chaotic aesthetic.
Hunt ‘s action sequences, including its opening assassination attempt in D.C., are all comprised of quick cuts and handheld shots, but it’s thanks to Kim Sang-Bum’s precise editing that they never become incoherent or mind-numbingly confusing.
The same cannot be said for Hunt ’s plot, which contains so many layers and false leads that it would be difficult to keep track of even in a film that didn’t move as fast as it does. However, Hunt moves at a shockingly brisk pace from start to finish and frequently delivers key pieces of information in such a quick, offhand manner that it can become easy to get utterly lost in the film’s web of secrets and lies. Those who pay close attention will likely be able to stick with the film, even in the moments when its story becomes too confusing and twisty for its own good, most of which come during Hunt ’s bloated second act.
In its desire to be as bombastic and action-packed as possible, Hunt ’s climactic sequence also revolves around a few too many twists. The scale of the film’s final set piece, in specific, becomes too unwieldy for its director and editor to handle, and it introduces the kind of shoddy CGI effects that are absent from the rest of Hunt . Even when it seems like Hunt is veering dangerously close to going off the rails, though, the film manages to correct itself with a final 10 minutes that are not only shocking, but also admirably acidic and bittersweet.
Hunt is further grounded by the lead performances given by Lee and Jung. As the film’s rival security chiefs, both actors are saddled with the unfortunate responsibility of having to conceal many of their characters’ motivations and suspicions while still giving performances that feel real and multidimensional. Fortunately, Lee and Jung manage to pull that tricky task off, delivering performances that feel distinctly drawn and conflicted in ways that help firmly root Hunt ’s convoluted narrative in their characters’ opposing perspectives.
Hunt ’s successes ultimately prove just how strong of a film Lee could direct should he ever manage to get his hands on a script that’s a bit tighter and cleaner. As it is, Hunt is a largely impressive directorial debut, one that establishes Lee as a surprisingly confident and technically proficient filmmaker. It’s an adrenaline-fueled slice of genre filmmaking that never quite reaches greatness, but still delivers a ride that is never anything but entertaining and enthralling.
Hunt is now playing in theaters and on demand.
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Entergalactic isn’t like most other animated movies that you’ll see this year — or any year, for that matter. The film, which was created by Scott Mescudi a.k.a. Kid Cudi and executive producer Kenya Barris, was originally intended to be a TV series. Now, it’s set to serve as a 92-minute companion to Cudi’s new album of the same name. That means Entergalactic not only attempts to tell its own story, one that could have easily passed as the plot of a Netflix original rom-com, but it does so while also featuring several sequences that are set to specific Cudi tracks.
Beyond the film’s musical elements, Entergalactic is also far more adult than viewers might expect it to be. The film features several explicit sex scenes and is as preoccupied with the sexual politics of modern-day relationships as it is in, say, street art or hip-hop. While Entergalactic doesn’t totally succeed in blending all of its disparate elements together, the film’s vibrantly colorful aesthetic and infectiously romantic mood make it a surprisingly sweet, imaginative tour through a fairytale version of New York City.
From its chaotic, underwater first frame all way to its liberating, sun-soaked final shot, God’s Creatures is full of carefully composed images. There’s never a moment across the film’s modest 94-minute runtime in which it feels like co-directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer aren’t in full control of what’s happening on-screen. Throughout much of God’s Creatures’ quietly stomach-churning second act, that sense of directorial control just further heightens the tension that lurks beneath the surface of the film’s story.
In God's Creatures' third act, however, Holmer and Davis’ steady grip becomes a stranglehold, one that threatens to choke all the drama and suspense out of the story they’re attempting to tell. Moments that should come across as either powerful punches to the gut or overwhelming instances of emotional relief are so underplayed that they are robbed of much of their weight. God's Creatures, therefore, ultimately becomes an interesting case study on artistic restraint, and, specifically, how too calculated a style can, if executed incorrectly, leave a film feeling unsuitably cold.
The international breakout star of the last 12 months is Lee Jung-jae. The South Korean actor became a global sensation for his role as Seong Gi-hun in Netflix's Squid Game. For his next move, Lee will make his feature directorial debut with the espionage thriller, Hunt.
Lee stars as Park Pyong-ho, a KCIA Foreign Unit Chief who is tasked with uncovering a North Korean spy known as Donglim. Along with KCIA Domestic Unit Chief Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung), he learns that the spy within their agency is leaking top-secret information that threatens national security. As they search for clues, Pyong-ho and Jung-do begin to investigate each other as they slowly learn about a plot to assassinate the South Korean president.
The Hunt Review
A darkly comic satire of our political divide..
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Before anybody saw it, Universal and Blumhouse’s The Hunt was the subject of much controversy last year, but it turns out that the actual film and its hyper-violent social commentary is smarter than it was given credit for back then. Director Zobel and writers Lindelof and Cuse, peering through the lens of social media hijinks and polarized politics, paint a ridiculous picture of how we’re all eating ourselves alive. That they do so in such a fun and absurdly bloody way makes The Hunt worth a retweet at the very least.
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2022, Drama/Action, 2h 11m
What to know
Although it frequently forsakes action in favor of a needlessly knotty narrative, Hunt has enough thrills to satisfy more forgiving espionage fans. Read critic reviews
Where to watch Hunt
Watch Hunt with a subscription on Hulu, rent on Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, or buy on Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video.
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After a high-ranking North Korean official requests asylum, KCIA Foreign Unit chief Park Pyong-ho (LEE Jung Jae) and Domestic Unit chief Kim Jung-do (JUNG Woo Sung) are tasked with uncovering a North Korean spy, known as Donglim, who is deeply embedded within their agency. When the spy begins leaking top secret intel that could jeopardize national security, the two units are each assigned to investigate each other. In this tense situation where if they cannot find the mole, they may be accused themselves, Pyong-ho and Jung-do slowly start to uncover the truth. In the end, they must deal with an unthinkable plot to assassinate the South Korean president...
Genre: Drama, Action, Mystery & thriller
Original Language: Korean
Director: Lee Jung-jae
Producer: Han Jae-duk , Lee Jung-jae
Writer: Lee Jung-jae
Release Date (Theaters): Dec 2, 2022 limited
Release Date (Streaming): Dec 2, 2022
Box Office (Gross USA): $26.0K
Runtime: 2h 11m
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Production Co: Sanai Pictures, Artist Studio
Cast & Crew
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