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USA 2003
Directed by
William Friedkin
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Hunted, The

There are some Hollywood movies that make you ask yourself why grown adults capable of so much more bother to make such tripe. The Hunted, with its self-pitying fantasy of righteous killing being the kind of movie you can imagine future teenage college massacre perpetrators much admiring, is one such film. Perhaps director William Friedkin thought that he could disguise the ludicrous plot with lots of showy action, perhaps he needed the paycheck. Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones surely can't have been so financially desperate.

Friedkin certainly dishes out the action but not in any form that distracts us from the essential vacuity of the plot. Del Toro is Special Ops assassin Aaron Hallam who has flipped out as a result of the horrors he has partaken in as an Army-trained killer and killed four deer hunters in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. His trainer/mentor/substitute-father, L. T. Bonham, (Jones, who had starred in Friedkin's previous film. Rules Of Engagement, 2000) is called in to track him down, something which he does with remarkable rapidity (he’s an expert tracker, you see) . But Aaron escapes just as quickly, killing a few more people and L.T. has to go after him again. This is a much more protracted process but as Aaron leaves footprints everywhere he goes, L.T. has his ass soon enough. Then Aaron kills a few more people before the two men face each other for a final elemental showdown.

The Hunted is clearly trying for some kind of First Blood (1982) vibe but despite an insistent sentimentality that sees not one, not two but three little girls included in the narrative as symbols of innocence (the most ill-judged being the one which picks up its soft toy from amongst the slaughtered corpses of a Kosovo pogrom) Aaron is no John Rambo, a character driven into a corner by a callous System, who kills despite himself. Aaron is, rather, a psychopath who has re-ordered the world in his own fashion. There is nothing in this situation inherently undeserving of our sympathy but the script doesn’t bother to develop its main protagonist's inner life but rather is wrapped up in some dubious pseudo-Biblical fundamentalist survivalist fantasy that does nothing more than result in a lot of carnage.  It is in other words, nonsense. The only mercy is that is that it doesn’t end with Connie Nielsen as the improbably spunky F.B.I. team leader hooking up with grizzled L.T. in his snow-bound cabin in the woods for some post-trauma frottage. 




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