“The Hunt” for better political satire

Regardless where you personally lie on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that the gap between the left and right is incredibly large. Partaking in a political conversation nowadays is almost like walking into a minefield. There tends to be so much anger, hatred and other such extremities when there doesn’t need to be.

And that’s what 2020’s satirical and darkly comical action-thriller “The Hunt” tries to satirize … and somewhat succeeds at? Kinda?

“The Hunt” was directed by Craig Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof. The film follows a group of strangers who wake up to find themselves being hunted by elitists. Sounds like a standard thriller so far, right?

Well, here’s the thing I failed to mention. Despite the film premiering in 2020, it was initially supposed to be released back in 2019 but was delayed in the wake of the mass shootings in Ohio and Texas. At that point, it was shelved indefinitely, but then later in 2019, “Joker” was released. Despite there being many people complaining about its violence (which makes me think that the people complaining have never even seen a rated-R film before), it received the most prestigious award at the Venice Film Festival, two Academy Awards and over $1 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing rated-R film of all time and the first rated-R film to make over a billion dollars.

So with that success, “The Hunt” would fit right in! Right?

Unfortunately, not exactly. First of all, “Joker” wasn’t taking shots at any political parties in particular, and instead, it was more of an “eat the rich” sort of thing. “The Hunt” very explicitly pits rightists and leftists against one another. The strangers who are being hunted throughout the film are all supposed to be representative of the people who are very far to the right, whereas the elitists hunting them are incredibly liberal. Plus, more people took some sort of personal offense to this film than they did with “Joker.” Liberals were angry that the film seemed to paint them as villains, whereas Republicans felt that the film was criticizing their political views.

The problem is that the film is more of a satire about this divide, and it’s as if people don’t understand the idea of people taking the centrist point of view. Some people don’t take sides, or at least they aren’t at the very end of either side of the spectrum.

But that being said, there is a huge problem with “The Hunt” when it comes to its attempts at political satire. The film just lacks an overall sense of self-awareness and/or subtlety, nor does all of it necessarily feel like it should be in an action-comedy. The film’s action is great, as is (most of) the comedy, and I do really appreciate the fact that the film almost takes the South Park approach in the sense that it makes fun of absolutely everybody (including the group of people that the creators themselves identify with), but it just … doesn’t necessarily work when there are really cringe-inducing lines of dialogue, such as, “I’m playing an Arab refugee, and I identify as white. I think that’s problematic too, in some way” and “Don’t First Amendment me.” They just don’t feel right in this sort of movie.

And what’s bizarre is that co-writer Damon Lindelof demonstrated in 2019 that this sort of thing can work after all. He had released the HBO miniseries “Watchmen,” which served as a sequel/companion piece to Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name. The perfect way to view these properties is to recognize the political stances being taken. With the graphic novel, the protagonist Rorschach is essentially an amalgamation of far-right politics during Nixon’s presidency during the ’70s or ’80s (note that the graphic novel takes place in an alternate reality where Nixon didn’t resign after the Watergate scandal). Now in the miniseries, the United States has moved too far to the left, as police officers are now forced to request explicit permission to discharge their weapon. In the first episode, this ends up getting an African-American police officer shot by a white supremacist when he spends too much time trying to get his gun ready, so when you read the comic and watch the miniseries one after the other, the political stances come to a head, ultimately exposing the problems of being extreme on either side.

As a centrist myself, I do see the need to be a bit more mellow regarding specific topics, and I really love how media is starting to finally represent that. Unfortunately, it could really use some tweaking.