Ah yes, I believe we’ve been here before. Once again the
master must square off against the pupil in a fight to the
death. Who doesn’t love this formula? But while it has always
seemed to be a decent crowd pleaser, The Hunted isn’t
quite on par with Darth Vader versus Obi-Wan.
Aaron Hallam (Del Toro) is a Special Forces soldier
who has been trained to be a killing machine. (Who knew a
knife could be so dangerous?) After witnessing a mass slaughtering
of Serbs during a jarring tour in Kosovo he begins to break
down. The “battle stress” that begins to take over turns him
into a ruthless killer lacking the inhibitions to realize
what he is doing. He also becomes quite enamored with animal
rights, but you wouldn’t want Aaron Hallam as president of
PETA. Eventually he goes AWOL and decides to make a home for
himself in an Oregon forest where he makes a game of stalking
and killing local hunters. An FBI investigation ensues and
quickly they discern this particular style of homicide and
decide to bring in the man who trained him, L.T. Bonham (Jones).
Bonham is a determined, rugged man who takes on capturing
Hallam as his personal responsibility because he trained him
and he’s the only one who can find him. Armed with only a
knife (neither man likes guns) and the knowledge that he has
imparted to Hallam, he sets off tracking his every move, desperately
trying to capture Hallam before he kills again.
Once again Tommy Lee Jones has reverted back to his famous
“man hunter” type role that he played so well in The Fugitive
and U.S. Marshals. While this formula worked well for
him in the past, The Hunted fails because it lacks
what those films had: some weight. The problem is that it
is unbelievably empty. There is absolutely no real depth or
emotion in or between the characters. This is Tommy Lee Jones
tracking Benicio Del Toro and that is it. Had there been some
real past between them other than the simple fact that Bonham
happened to have trained him then maybe this film wouldn’t
feel so artificial. And the same can be said for the supporting
cast as well. Had there been something more to Connie Nielsen’s
FBI agent, Abby Durrell, (or any of the other agents) then
perhaps that could have added some weight. I felt there might
have been hope for this cause when Hallam visits Irene Kravitz
and her daughter Loretta while he is on the run. But are they
his estranged wife and child? No, just a vague, fatherless
family that he had spent some time with before he lost it.
This lack of character is too bad for the film’s stars, Del
Toro and Jones, because they both give typically brilliant
performances, they just don’t have much to perform with.
The blandness of The Hunted is really two-sided. On
top of skin-deep characters, a lack of a decent story haunts
this film. The reason The Fugitive was good was because
of a good story and that’s what The Hunted lacks (though
that’s not to say that this film doesn’t try to copy The
Fugitive in many other ways. Some of the similarities
are blatant). The Hunted is very two-dimensional. Soldier
loses it, becomes a killing machine, his old mentor tracks
him down. As far as the story goes, that’s really it folks.
No government conspiracy, no whodunit, no last-minute twist,
all elements that could have at least provided an assist for
a movie like this. There are a few scenes where the film tries
to add weight to its plot, but usually they are very shallow
and defy reason. When Bonham is close to Hallam at the end
why would he make himself a crude knife out of rock when he
could just get a real one from the FBI? Well, the answer is
because it seemingly makes the endgame deeper and more serious,
but anyone can see that it’s highly illogical.
One thing The Hunted doesn’t lack is a generous amount
of blood. One should be prepared to see some serious stabbing
and slicing as the main characters are both masters of the
knife. The opening scene in Kosovo is also very graphic in
an attempt to get the audience on track with what makes Aaron
Hallam lose it.
For all its emptiness The Hunted is remarkably entertaining
on a superficial level, which I suspect is all that the producers
wanted to achieve (or underachieve). It’s definitely a guy
movie with violence and some cool chase and fight scenes,
so if you can get past the hollowness then perhaps this film
is for you.
Bottom line: The Hunted is a pretty decent cat and
mouse flick, but don’t be prepared to think much.