Old-school revenge movie “HUNT CLUB” is never boring | MONDAY REVIEW

Elizabeth Blake-Thomas’s “Hunt Club” (written by David Lipper and John Saunders) is an exploitation flick with a strong message of female empowerment and the type of picture that was a dime a dozen back in the grindhouse era of the seventies. 

Films like these would feature a band of women (usually trapped in a prison or held by slave traffickers) who are tortured during the first half but become violent seekers of vengeance in the second, directors piled on the torture to unbearable levels so later audiences would cheer on the bloody smorgasbord of revenge.

Blake-Thomas makes her film a return to those sleazy shenanigans. “Hunt Club” is filled with vile men who torment their half-naked female victims in brutal and repulsive ways. The violence is constant and occasionally disturbing, but the retributions are earned and to see the women take control of their fates should be a crowd-pleaser. 

That said, while the director’s intentions are manifest the film’s message is too on-the-nose and the execution flat.

Mena Suvari’s Cassandra is a suicidal mother who is saved by a woman named Tessa (Maya Stojan). In a diner one sunny afternoon Cassandra meets Carter (Casper Van Dien) and his son Jackson (Will Peltz). The two men are hunters and offer Cassandra one hundred thousand dollars to join them. 

The hunt these two men are a part of takes place on Carter’s personal island. The catch? Women are the prey.

What begins is a battle of strength and will, Cassandra finds herself getting close to Jackson as she tries to make him see that violence doesn’t a man make. Of course, she eventually finds herself a captive among the stable of women being prepared for the hunt.

I am of two minds regarding the presentation of the hunters. They are all mostly good-ol’-boy, misogynistic, wannabe alphas. As a group they represent misguided macho posturing and the societal ill of privileged men with too much power. Each portrayal is overwritten and parodic, with many of their lines bordering on the ridiculous. The male characters are constantly pontificating lines about how good it is to be a man and how women are objects that should be subservient to men, the cliches and the insinuation behind them unfurling with laser-like precision.

On the other cinematic hand, when one watches and listens to many of the American people who blindly follow the ever cult-like political waves and dangerous talking points of today, we hear a more simplistic and uneducated rhetoric. 

Many of the oversimplified lines spoken by the film’s backwoods nutters are the very echo of what we hear today. Perhaps the screenplay gets that right. 

For a film like “Hunt Club,” it is probably unwise to focus on how the filmmakers could have used the piece more effectively, taking a sharper swipe at the America of today. The film does have sprinkles of a message, but its true intent is to thrill the audience. 

Genre addicts will, most likely, enjoy this one as a one-off. The action moments are okay. The fight choreography fails to pack a real punch and the big scenes of revenge have some impact but are not as strong as they should have been. What these moments lack in spark, they make up for in blood. While the blood doesn’t exactly splatter, there are a few gory moments.

Mena Suvari, a very good actress, occasionally rises above the lackluster presentation here. As her partner-in-crime Maya Stojan is fierce in the role of the badass, her eyes glisten like the blade she wields. 

Casper Van Dien has never been an actor of Brando-esque ability and with his role as a southern fried villain, he continues to solidify this fact. 

The phrase “and Mickey Rourke” is becoming too common in movies today. Since the actor’s return to good films (beginning in 2005 with Tony Scott’s “Domino” and Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City” and his Oscar nomination for 2009’s “The Wrestler”), Rourke has continued to dabble with unchallenging supporting parts in the straight to video world. In some of these lesser pictures Rourke tries. During his first scene in this film, he is watchable. By his only other scene, we can see how bored and uninterested the actor is. Chalk up another sad appearance by one of our finest actors.

“Hunt Club” is not a bad film. It has a good message, an old school drive-In revenge movie aura, and is never boring. While I cannot fully recommend it, I find it tough to denounce it. 

Proceed with caution.


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