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The Hunted (R)
Official Site
Director: William Friedkin
Producers: Sean Daniel, David Griffiths III, Peter Griffiths I, Marcus Viscidi
Written by: David Griffiths III, Peter Griffiths I, Art Monterastelli
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Jenna Boyd, Leslie Stefanson

Rating: out of 5

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.

—Corey Herrick


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