Controversy at its finest. Blood, guts, and fisticuffs to boot. A Hilary Swank film that was at one time canceled and not meant to see the light of day is now finding success on the HBO Max streaming platform as it sits at #8.
Hilary Swank leads the way in the highly controversial 2020 film, The Hunt. She stars alongside Betty Gilpin and a host of victims in a movie that was built as a satire to show the vast divide between the political left and right. Hilary Swank is Athena Stone, an elite who, by text, is looking forward to the upcoming hunt of deplorables. As an exclamation point to her outlook, she jams a stiletto into the eye of a man on her private jet.
We are then thrust into a forest setting where eleven people wake up gagged. Not all are together, but they see a large wooden box in the middle of a clearing. When one captive opens the box, they find inside a large cache of weapons.
The captives, who include Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, and Justin Hartley, (but not Hilary Swank) try to deduce where they are and why. Then they begin to lose their heads, literally. Gunfire kills a few, while other nearby traps take out a few more. The deaths are sudden, very unexpected, and quite gruesome.
A few captives escape by climbing a fence and make their way to a nearby service station, where Ma and Pop attempt to help them. One by one, though, the captives get killed in gruesome fashion, as Ma and Pop are fully in on the hunt.
After a quick clean-up of the service station, another lone survivor arrives. Crystal Creasey, who we find out over time is an Army Vet, steps into the station fully aware and ready to tangle. She quickly realizes that Ma and Pop are not who they claim to be and loudly removes them from their mortal coil.
Now Crystal is on the run, trying to put together why she was chosen as one of the victims. She is first aided by Gary (Ethan Suplee) but it’s not long before she is back on her own. Crystal then runs into the last remaining survivor Don and the two, after trying to make their escape on a train, are taken to a refugee camp. Secrets are spilled as Crystal begins to have doubts about Don’s truth-telling ability.
When all cards are put on the table, it is time for the money shot – a Gilpin and Hilary Swank tête-à-tête. Hilary Swank as Athena, as shown throughout the film, is a badass (physically speaking) but she’s never had to deal with Crystal’s level of badass. Their fight sequence that ends the movie is one of the best mano-y-mano choreographed scenes put on film.
When announced, The Hunt found tough sledding. The film was directed by Craig Zobel and written by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof (Lost). With the political climate on shaky grounds at best, a story about conservative Americans being hunted down by liberal elites was sure to raise hackles and it did.
Universal canceled the release of the movie after then President Trump and Fox News spoke out about the nature of the film. In their statement, a Universal spokesperson said in an email, “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for The Hunt, after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film. We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”
It took a few months, but Universal had second thoughts (partially based on the success Joker was having) and decided that the film was ready for release. Unfortunately for the film and its makers, the release came just as the COVID pandemic was shuttering all movie theaters.
Hilary Swank’s breakthrough came in 1994 when she starred The Next Karate Kid, the fourth film in the Karate Kid franchise. From there, Swank found time on TV series such as Leaving L.A. and then on the popular Beverly Hills, 90210.
But it was in 1999 that Hilary Swank garnered some big attention. She starred as a trans man in Boys Don’t Cry, a role in which the talented actress received the first of two Academy Awards for Best Actress. Her second came five years later in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.
Since that time, Swank has starred in other big films like The Black Dahlia, the underrated The Gift opposite Cate Blanchett, Amelia, and The Resident while also moving back over to the small screen with series such as Trust, and Away.
If you’re in the mood for some gory, political dividing fun, check out The Hunt on Netflix.