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The Hunted (2003)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
Genres:
Action, Action Thriller
Director:
William Friedkin William Friedkin
Starring:
Tommy Lee Jones Tommy Lee Jones
Benicio Del Toro Benicio Del Toro
Connie Nielsen Connie Nielsen
Leslie Stefanson Leslie Stefanson
John Finn John Finn

5.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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In the wilderness of British Columbia, two hunters are tracked and viciously murdered by Aaron Hallum. A former Special Operations instructor is approached and asked to apprehend Hallum - his former student - who has 'gone rogue' after suffering severe battle stress from his time in Kosovo. --TMDb
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Review by Tristan
Added: January 17, 2008
35 years ago, William Friedkin found success with The Exorcist, which is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. For the next 30 years he created films which slipped under the radar, and for good reason. He tried his hand at comedy, drama, horror, and none of it did very well. Then in 2000 he released Rules of Engagement, a film full of talented actors and actresses, which barely broke even at the box office. It would have seemed that Friedkin's career had peaked with The Exorcist, and he would remain a one-hit-wonder. Luckily, he broke out of this label in 2003 with The Hunted. The movie was in no way a box office success, but I'd have to say it's a fine piece of film, and very enjoyable.

Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) is a Special Ops soldier who is ordered to execute a ruthless Kosovian tyrant slaughtering thousands of Albanians. For his good judgment, exceptional skills and bravery under duress, he is awarded the Silver Star, one of the highest decorations the United States has to offer. Four years later, Hallam has returned to the United States to reintegrate with society. However, a man can only spend so much time look death and chaos right in the face before it begins to break him down, no matter how strong his will may be.

When Hallam finally goes over the edge by tracking and brutally murdering a group of hunters in the forests of Portland, Oregon, the FBI turns to L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), the renegade soldier's tutor and mentor, for assistance. Bonham regretfully cooperates with the FBI in bringing Hallam in, only to have him escape the armoured car while being transferred. It quickly becomes a game of cat-and-mouse, as the teacher is forced to hunt down his most talented student through the woods of Portland to the concrete jungle.

Tommy lee Jones, always the excellent on-screen presence, turns in yet another great performance as the quiet and retired L.T. Bonham. Even though the character did not have a lot of lines or a good length of time to develop some personality, Jones was able to do it within his first few minutes in the movie. The same can be said about Del Toro's character, who has almost no on camera lines at all. Every time the two men faced off you knew you were in for a treat, as both of these intense characters have nothing against each other, but were forced to fight to the death regardless. Friedkin using Johnny Cash's lyrics during the beginning and end credits was a stroke of genius, in my opinion. They fit perfectly with the theme of the movie, and being a Johnny Cash fan, it was just nice to hear.

With any movie of this nature, there are bound to be a few flaws. The biggest and most obvious is Bonham's ability to find every trace, track, and trap left behind by Hallam, no matter how small or out of the way. I understand he's a master tracker and survivalist, but to be realistic about it, there's only so much one man can be capable of. The other flaw, which isn't so much a flaw as a bit of a letdown, is the similarities between this and First Blood, The Fugitive and US Marshall's, the latter two of which Mr. Jones had a starring role. While Bonham doesn't come close to the brilliant and unrelenting bloodhound Samuel Gerard, it is obvious that Tommy Lee Jones was given this role because they were looking for that same kind of magic.

I'd heard nothing but bad things about this film for years, but when I saw it in the bargain bin, I just had to pick it up. I'm quite pleased that I did, as it was a very entertaining 90 minutes. Sure it's not going to win any awards, or compare to The Fugitive, but it was quite thought provoking, and had a bit of a message behind it, something that's all but lost in today's modern action films.

8/10.
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Review by Ginose
Added: October 16, 2009
I don't believe I've ever seen a character actor that has impressed me as much as Benicio Del Toro; though performers like the Christophers Lee and Walken manage to bring unbelievably fantastic traits to any respective character they play, no one has ever brought such new life into his roles as Del Toro. My biggest fall back, whenever I consider this argument is his performance of Oscar Zeta Acosta in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"; of all the things I've read of and by the famous attorney, I don't think I could have ever seen such an amazingly human version of him as what Benicio Del Toro brought to his role in the film (the LSD-driven frenzy in the bathtub still as remarkable as any I've ever seen, in film). Though, for all the fantastic performances the man has put out over the years (one can only hope "Traffic" will be as remembered as it should be), he seems so under-mindedly ignored for roles that would be perfect for him, it's almost like the hard work many actors put into their abilities can be outshined by a return to stardom no one saw coming *cough*Downey Jr.*cough*, whether they deserve their publicity or not (not to imply Robert doesn't deserve all the spotlight he's seen, as of late, but, come on, he TOTALLY phoned in "The Soloist", and Fox certainly wasn't willing to carry the whole movie on his own, who knows how much else the bastard will let slip in his rediscovered arrogance).

Such an actor as Del Toro is, you'd figure I'd be more inclined to track down the films he's in more frequently, but having only seen glimpses of "The Hunted" on TV, I really wasn't sure it'd be worth a look (would you see something that looked like a mix between "First Blood" and "U.S. Marshals"?). The themes seemed played, Tommy Lee Jones' character looked like the SAME character he'd been forced to play all through the 90s, and the plot appeared to be a bastard child of "Apocalypse Now" and one of the better "CSI" episodes. So, meh, I mulled over it a few times, but never bothered watching it. It wasn't until recently, when my lovely lady continued to mention a movie that featured Tommy Lee Jones chasing down Benicio Del Toro and having knife fights the whole length through that I decided it'd be a good idea to give it a shot. So, she got it, we watched it and, let me just say, I almost drowned when I stepped into, what I thought, was the shallow end of the action-film pool.

After successfully completing a mission in 1999, a black-ops assassin (Del Toro) drops of the grid, completely, until in which he is found to be the possible murderer of four hunters near Portland, Oregon. So, as is generally the plot for these sorts of things, the FBI calls in a well-known, ex-military personnel trainer (Jones), who may have some insight on the culprit and his potential motives. After a brush in the woods, the killer is captured (momentarily) and it is revealed he had all the best intentions for his deeds (in his eyes, anyway). Escaping his captors, the arrest quickly becomes a game between the two hunters, but who will truly fall prey?

Now, I don't feel the need to say that the leads' performances were absolutely wonderful and damned near untouchable by most modern standards, but a lot of the supporting roles suffered fro ma severe case of CDS, and didn't do anything but distract you from the wonderful action, violence and drive to the rest of the film. So, cringe-worthy as some were, they were overlookable in the grand-scheme of the film. Truth is, the acting is more of a crutch than the meat of the film, and visually it's gorgeous. For "just another" wilderness action film, it really went out of its way to present itself quite masterfully. The shots of the hunt both in and out of the city were gorgeous, as were the well-scoped special-effects in the films opening. Such eye-candy, however, is merely that (candy) compared to the thematic meat that fleshed this worn-out genre into something I'll be remembering.

The themes scattered throughout out a lot of unneeded (though, not unwanted) depth to the character writing, making the paralleling Abraham story truly stick, as well as the popular themes of man's ignorance of nature's perfection, or the bonds of kinship that form when a man is shown how to become a survivor rather than a soldier. It's easy to ignore the reasoning when such a film plays itself as just another dumb-action film, but most action fans will be confused and consumed by the motives of the characters, and most fans of deeper film will still be easily deceived by the films clichéd plot and emphasis on gory combat rather that proper storytelling.

Still, I didn't feel lost in the chaotic mist that was the films ideas. It was refreshing to see a far mid-ground between stupidity and complexity, shallowness and depth. Perhaps it was the constant flow of testosterone that was secreting from the screen as the movie went on, but I was far more impressed with this one than I ever though I would be.

Give it a fair shot, if you're a fan of the genre... hell, give it one if you're not. Not a fantastic film, but a damned entertaining 90 minutes, and offers quite a bit more than meets the eye.

7.2/10.
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