I Saw “The Hunt” in a Movie Theater and Lived to Tell About It
Saturday at 3:30 pm
Coronavirus has its grip on the world. People are working from home. School is cancelled. Social distancing is encouraged. Toilet paper is running out. Hand sanitizer is already long gone. Studios are delaying their big-budget tentpoles to later this year (No Time to Die) or next year (F9) or some unknown date (A Quiet Place Part II) or even indefinitely (poor New Mutants). Perfect time to head out and see a movie in the theater, right?
Well, that’s exactly what I did on Thursday night. I headed to the AMC Rosemont 12 theater, knowing that it may be my last opportunity to see a new release for the next few weeks. What a sad thought. The moviegoing experience was already in trouble, having been threatened by state-of-the-art home setups and free streaming options, but I’m afraid that the combo of audience fear of crowded places and lack of new product could be a one-two punch from which some theaters never really recover. I hope I’m wrong, but I seriously think the economic repercussions of this pandemic will reverberate for many months long after (fingers crossed) the contagion flattens out and clears up. And, that’s something no theater chain or film lover wants.
So, what I’d go see? Well, the options for this weekend – the last wave of new releases before a nearly 2-month long drought – were not exactly the best and brightest that Hollywood has to offer: I Still Believe – a faith-based tearjerker along the lines of The Fault in Our Stars; Bloodshot – an obscure comic book adaptation starring Vin Diesel; and The Hunt – the controversial, long-delayed action comedy from Blumhouse. I chose The Hunt.
First things first – how was the moviegoing experience? Let me tell you – it was quite pleasant. I went to a 9:40pm showing on Thursday. While certainly not crowded at the AMC Rosemont, I was pleased to see I was not the only one there. The theater was super clean, the concession stand was well-manned, and I saw cleaning products around, which – whether intentionally left out or not – was oddly comforting. There were about 10 others in the auditorium showing The Hunt with me, but we were all adequately spaced out by way more than 6 feet (social distancing success!), and I even had the whole row to myself.
AMC Rosemont recently upgraded its auditoriums to reduce its seat count and include super comfortable reclining leather seats, with ample leg room between aisles. It’s also a dine-in theater, so you can order food at concessions and have it delivered to your individual seat. The food is better than normal theater fare – gourmet burgers, pretzel bites, brussel sprouts, and more. It’s a premier moviegoing experience, and actually quite perfect for these coronavirus-challenged times. Earlier this week, AMC, like Regal and other chains, modified its individual auditorium capacities, so that shows are considered sold out when 50% full, which gives viewers even more space away from each other than they already had.
I tell you all this so that as the weeks go by, and your kids are home and you’re not sure what to do with them, heading out to see a movie may be a valid choice. That’s especially true if other theaters do as good a job as AMC Rosemont. But it also depends on how things develop in these crazy times we’re living in.
As for The Hunt? Well, if that’s the last new movie I see in theaters for a while, I didn’t exactly go out with a bang. Seriously, has any movie had as troubled a release history as The Hunt? Maybe Seth Rogen and James Franco’s The Interview. Originally scheduled for Sept. 27, it was pushed back due to a recent mass shooting. Then Fox News got word of the general premise – liberal elites hunting so-called deplorables – and made a big deal out of it, without having seen the movie. And, to cap it all off, President Dumbass weighed in on the film, tweeting his typical nonsense, and Universal eventually pulled the film from release. Finally, after the holidays, Universal announced it would open The Hunt on Friday the 13th (of March), and leaned into all the pre-release controversy, using it as a selling point.
I’d say it was all much ado about nothing. I’m usually a big fan of Damon Lindelof’s work (he co-wrote the script), and while he certainly tries to hit on some political hot button issues (neither party comes out smelling like a rose here), I think he missed a lot of his targets by a long mile. The first hour is frisky and fun, offering shocking yet hilarious bursts of extreme gore, and a few surprise kills of its B-list celebrity cast. But, the story jumps off the rail in the last half-hour – right around the flashback and re-appearance of Hillary Swank – and then drains any goodwill the movie had previously built up. That being said, I appreciate its attempt to tackle relevant societal issues in a genre film, and GLOW’s Betty Gilpin gives a real “we’re not worthy” lead performance, striking just the right tone and finding little bursts of humor in some of her facial expressions.
Star Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars
Better Than: Surviving the Game
Worse Than: Hard Target
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