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Sun09272020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The Hunt, the little B movie that can’t seem to catch a break, finally got released to theaters … in the midst of a national emergency.

The results: Not surprisingly, very few people risked COVID-19 in an effort to see it sitting next to people!

Originally set for release last year, the film was postponed until 2020 due to its violent nature—and the fact that a cluster of mass shootings had occurred at the time. So the studio picked the safe haven of March for a release, only to have those plans foiled by Mr. Beer Virus.

Straight up, this is a fun B movie, but it certainly would’ve benefited from a limited release or Netflix opening. It’s got its virtues, but you probably made the right choice by staying home and watching Disney+. It’s good, but not great.

Now, when Tenet comes out, I don’t care if this emergency is still going on: I need to watch that one on IMAX.

The film starts with group of hardcore liberals on instant messaging, goofing around about the idea of hunting deplorables for sport, à la The Most Dangerous Game. Was it a joke? Will they actually hunt? What is the name of the movie?

As things turn out, those who voted for Trump will soon be in the cross-hairs: A group of non-liberals wake up in a field, find a case of weapons, and are immediately met with gunfire and arrows.

Oh my god … sounds pretty controversial, right? Nah, not really. The point of this movie is that too many people are acting like total assholes when it comes to political ideology. (Hey, I count myself as one of those assholes from time to time.) So just about every character in this film behaves badly, regardless of political affiliation. The movie is a satiric take on our current political attitudes, and how things are getting a little out of hand on social media. It’s also at times funny, bloody and suspenseful—and it contains a great kitchen fight in its closing minutes.

There are moments in the script when the movie is almost saying, “Hey, we were just ragging on Republicans, but now we will rag on Democrats! So, don’t get too mad at us!” Those obvious “balancing act” moments drag the movie down a little bit.

The hunt is masterminded by Athena (Hilary Swank). You don’t see her for a large swath of the film, but she shows up eventually and is one of the folks engaged in the above-mentioned kitchen fight. The movie primarily belongs to Betty Gilpin (Glow) as Crystal, who winds up on the hunted side—and that’s not good for the hunters. Betty can throw down, and there’s little that scares her. Gilpin has all the makings of becoming the next great cinematic action hero. She’s got a great deadpan delivery to punctuate her smack-downs, she comes up with some facial expressions that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before: She’s a sympathetic hero with depth behind her eyes. I’d say at least 80 percent of the reason I like this movie is because of Gilpin.

Some familiar faces do show up in the movie, including Ike Barinholtz, Ethan Suplee (looking good, Ethan!), Emma Roberts and Amy Madigan. Granted, don’t get too attached to anybody, because the cast thins out fast. Swank, a two-time Oscar winner, shows that she can bring the funk whether she’s working for Clint Eastwood or Craig Zobel, the director of this one. She creates a memorable, sinister villain in Athena. In other words: This film, despite its shlock factor and obviousness, is a good time thanks to Gilpin and Swank. They embrace the nonsense and take it to fun levels.

The Hunt probably deserved a debut on a streaming service rather than the big screen—and streaming, it will be, in the near future. When it hits the TV screen, watch it if you are in the mood for a good B movie.

Published in Reviews

A gang of losers plots to rob a NASCAR racetrack during one of its busiest weekends—and they do it in a hackneyed way that makes absolutely no sense in Logan Lucky.

Steven Soderbergh comes out of retirement to direct Channing Tatum as Jimmy Logan, a former football player who has fallen on bad times, and then suddenly gets it in his head to rob the racetrack. His plan involves sneaking people out of prison, blowing things up with gummy bears, and using secret allies within the establishment.

Soderbergh did the Ocean’s Eleven movies, and the first one included a reasonably fun and inventive heist. Well, this is sort of Ocean’s Eleven for rednecks—but it’s hard to believe this group would have the ability to pull off the heist.

The film is almost saved by some of the supporting performances, including Daniel Craig as an incarcerated safe cracker who digs hard-boiled eggs, and Adam Driver as Jimmy’s one-armed brother. But for every character who is a plus, there’s a lame one, like Seth MacFarlane’s heavily accented millionaire who is not as funny as he thinks he is. Hilary Swank shows up in the final act in a role that feels tacked on.

The movie doesn’t come together in the end, and its robbery scheme is too cute to be realistic. The big reveals feel like a cheat rather than a unique twist.

It’s good to have Soderbergh back in action, but this is just a rehash of something he’s done before—with the addition of a Southern accent. It’s much ado about nothing. There are a few laughs here, but not enough to justify seeing Logan Lucky in theaters.

Logan Lucky is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

I’ve often complained that, because I have seen so many movies, I can guess big twists or mysteries in films long before they happen. So I have to give a lot of credit to the Old West drama The Homesman, directed by Tommy Lee Jones—because it has a twist I did not see coming.

Jones directs and co-stars as George Briggs, narrowly saved from hanging by one Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Mary Bee has won the not-so-prestigious honor of taking three mentally ill women from the Nebraska territories back east via covered wagon. There, they will be handed over to a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep), who will take care of them and surely smack them over the heads with Bibles.

Mary Bee saves George on one condition: He must guide and protect her and the women on their trip. Upon reaching their destination, he will be set free with $300 in his pocket. George, who really has no choice, accepts the offer and joins forces with the strong-willed Mary Bee.

There are a few scenes establishing Mary Bee’s character before she meets up with George, including a very awkward dinner date and marriage proposal. It’s made clear early on that Mary Bee is “plain” and too bossy. While it’s hard to imagine that Swank could ever be “plain,” the bossy part is right on: She is not to be messed with.

Jones establishes the three troubled women with early scenes that are a little confusing. I was eventually able to assess that one woman killed her child; another lost her children to illness; and the other was just a little too into religion. The women are played by Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto and Sonja Richter. They aren’t given very much to say, but each makes a memorably tragic impression.

The trip involves the usual Western road-trip mainstays, like a run-in with Indians and bad weather. Through it all, Jones and Swank have a great rapport, playing off each other well. Mary Bee is a complicated character in that she is very strong-willed and independent on one hand, while being guilt ridden, vulnerable and lonely on the other. In her day, to be unmarried at her age meant there was something drastically wrong with her in the public eye, resulting in shame and embarrassment. (The same happens today to a certain extent, but we have TV and iPods to take the edge off.)

Some of her behavior could be construed as erratic and uncharacteristic, but one has to keep in mind that her character occupies a different, cruel stage in American history. Mary Bee’s growing obsession with her social standing makes perfect sense, even if it seems a bit extreme. She wants to conduct sound business and form sensible unions at a time when women weren’t generally allowed to make such suggestions or demands.

Two-time Oscar winner Swank brings a rich coarseness to Mary Bee, a woman perhaps ahead of her time. There’s a sweetness to what Swank does with the role, and a sad element as well, as we see the cross-country trek taking a toll on her.

Jones is pretty much his usual self here—rough and tough on the outside, but definitely in possession of a soft side. As a director, he makes a good-looking movie. However, there are parts of the film that confound a bit, in part because some of the actors look similar. It personally took me a little while to sort some of the action out.

The Homesman isn’t a great Western, but it’s worthy entry to the genre—and it marks a nice return to form for Swank, who downright humiliated herself in some of her more recent roles. Jones has given her a role to remind us that she’s an actress of great power.

The Homesman is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565) and the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews