Thursday, 24 September 2020

‘The Hunt’ fraught, gruesome polemic; ‘Spenser’ on TV



‘THE HUNT’ Rated R

The premise of “The Hunt,” which has champagne-sipping liberal elites hunting “deplorables” for sport, garnered such a great deal of controversy last summer in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso that Universal shelved the film’s release until now.

It is curious that in a presidential election year that exposes the left-right political divide between blue-state and red-state partisans should even be considered no less controversial at this very moment in time.

The one thing that might dampen any meaningful discussion about “The Hunt” would be our fixation on the coronavirus’ threat to our collective well-being. We’re in panic mode over a real menace and too busy trying to find a store with toilet paper on the shelves.

The “deplorables” in question turn out to be about a dozen citizens mostly from flyover-country who are drugged and dumped in a field near a crate filled with an assortment of weapons.

Despite the available arms, the majority of the hunted are quickly terminated by guns and arrows from a hilltop bunker as well as landmines and Viet Cong-style lethal spike traps.

A couple of them manage to escape from what is known in conspiracy theory circles as Manorgate, only to end up seeking refuge in what for all appearances is a mom-and-pop convenience store and gas station in rural Arkansas.

The ordinary-looking senior citizen proprietors turn out to be hunters as well, killing the survivors with shotguns while imparting the final words that “for the record, climate change is real.”

Unfortunately for the hunters, they didn’t count on a bleach blonde car rental clerk from Mississippi to be a cunning, lethal adversary. That would be Crystal (Betty Gilpin), a proficient Army veteran of the Afghanistan war.

In rather short order, Crystal proves to be a lot smarter than the elitists who seriously underestimate her combat skills, as she knows the fine art of evasion on the battlefield and the ability to dispatch enemies with hard-nosed competence.

For Crystal, the mission is to find the mastermind behind the jet-setting crowd’s fantasy of moral authority, and that turns out to be the well-heeled Athena (Hilary Swank), a corporate globalist with a warped sense of supremacy.

“The Hunt” is fraught with gruesome violence, but the real kicker is the climactic hand-to-hand smackdown between Crystal and Athena at the latter’s hideaway with plenty of broken glass and furniture.



‘SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL’ ON NETFLIX

With the dreaded coronavirus spreading and the assembly of crowds discouraged or outright banned, major film studios are delaying so many releases that it appears viewing choices at theaters are dwindling down to independent films.

The situation is not any better with TV networks and cable channels now halting or delaying production. For now, Netflix is a decent option for home entertainment and “Spenser Confidential” is worth a look for a bit of fun during a gloomy time.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Spenser, a former Boston police officer that is first seen on his last day of a five-year stint in Walpole prison for beating up police captain John Boylan (Michael Gaston), a crooked cop and wife-beater to boot.

After being picked up by his old friend Henry (Alan Arkin), Spenser is eager to get out of Boston by moving to Arizona, but first he wants to get his trucking license. To no one’s surprise, Spenser is unable to escape Beantown and the bunch of dirty cops that want his scalp.

Another good reason to skip down is that his on-again, off-again crazy girlfriend Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger) may or may not want him back in her life, but she hurls so many funny insults his way that one can’t be sure how this relationship will play out.

Captain Boylan gets murdered by a gang of machete-wielding thugs, and while Spenser would be the prime suspect, the blame falls on one of his old colleagues, a good guy and family man who’s found dead of an apparent suicide with a stash of drugs in his car.

Despite the fact he’s an ex-con, Spenser operates from a moral code that eludes many of the officers he once worked with, and with a decent cop falsely accused, he decides to investigate the case that the Boston police seem disinterested in solving.

Joining Spenser as his sidekick is wannabe MMA fighter Hawk (Winston Duke), a hulking figure who knows how to fight, but Spenser is the one ending up a punching bag when dealing with rogue cops and Irish mobsters, leading Hawk to observe “Man, you get beat up a lot.”

Before too long, Spenser is on the trail of a South Boston thug named Tracksuit Charlie (James DuMont) who was doing dirty work for Captain Boylan and is working with mobsters on a crooked land development deal involving an abandoned dog-racing track.

Proving to be one of the good guys, Spenser’s quest to root out police corruption and take down gangsters turns “Spenser Confidential” into an entertaining, watchable crime procedural that seems destined for sequels.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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