The Hunted review by Mike Long

Having never cast a film, I'm not 100% certain of the process, but I do know that actors have agents and that they all read scripts to try and pick the right roles. So, many people who are associated with Tommy Lee Jones must have read the script for The Hunted, and you would think at one point one of them would have said, "Hey, isn't this The Fugitive?"

The Hunted opens in Kosovo in 1999. There we meet Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), a solider who is a trained killer, and a highly decorated soldier. The action then jumps to a forest in modern-day Oregon, where two hunters are stalked and murdered. The FBI brings in famed tracker L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) to help with the case. Bonham is able to track the killer, who is revealed to be Hallam. As he is taken into custody, we learn that Bonham trained Hallam to be a killer and a survivor. Hallam also proves to be quite elusive, and when he escapes from the feds, the chase is on!

To say that The Hunted is exactly like The Fugitive would be inaccurate and unfair. But, having said that, the character that Jones plays here is a lot like his character from The Fugitive. And he is chasing a guy...who has escaped from custody in a way that is not unlike the way that Dr. Richard Kimble got free. So, they are similar. But, once again, The Hunted is a different film. Just keep that in mind.

One thing that makes The Hunted different is the unique fact that the entire movie feels like the last 20 minutes of a movie. Essentially, from Chapter 5 on, the movie is one long chase scene, as Hallam attempts to track the man who taught him the art of stealth. Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) keeps the pace high throughout the film. And, there is a variety of action in the film, as Hallam is first tracked through the forest, and the chase then continues by car and then on foot. The film was shot in Oregon, where Friedkin and company really take advantage of that state's natural beauty, resulting in some breathtaking photography.

But, for all of the action in the film, there isn't a great deal of suspense or excitement. (Save for one training flashback, where it seems pretty apparent that Hallam is going to snap.) This is due to the plotholes and inconsistencies in the script. Despite the presence of three (credited) screenwriters, there is very little story in The Hunted, and this really hurts the film. In one of the featurettes included on this DVD, Friedkin states that he's learned that action films don't have to be too long. It's great that he's attempted to whittle The Hunted down to the basics, but in doing so, many important plot details have fallen by the wayside. The most glaring problem is Hallam's motivation. All we are told is that he's witnessed too much combat and death and now he's gone rogue. This is lazy storytelling at its worse. It's clear that Hallam was meant to be a complicated character, as many moral issues are hinted at, but all we are left with is a Rambo clone who can't stop killing people. Another mistake is Bonham's initial motivation for taking the case. We cut from him adamantly refusing to help to a scene in which he's suddenly on a helicopter heading for Oregon, but we're never told what changed his mind. (Did he assume that the killer was a man he'd trained?) And don't get me started on how Hallam's Elvis-like hairdo stands out amongst the other soldiers. Some may argue that these plot-points aren't important, but The Hunted could have been a very intelligent thriller, but it's too lean for its own good.

While Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro are impressive in the film, the lack of detail in the script hinders their performances. Remember, The Hunted isn't just like The Fugitive, but Jones plays his typical ultra-smart character who speaks in curt tone as he utter brief responses. The difference here is that Bonham hates being in an urban environment, so he shakes a lot. As for Del Toro, he has some good scenes where he is able to emote, but basically he spends the entire film attempting to look solemn and deadly. The Hunted isn't a terrible film, as the chase scenes are very well done, but it could have been so much more.

Paramount Home Entertainment has tracked The Hunted onto DVD. The film is being released in two separate DVD editions, widescreen and full-frame. For this review, the widescreen version was screened. The image has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks fantastic, showing virtually no grain and no obvious defects from the source print. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing an impressive amount of depth, which only adds to the beauty of the Oregon scenery. Friedkin states in the special features that he wanted the film to have the look of a documentary, and that natural look comes across fine here, as the colors, most especially the greens of the forests look fine. The only real flaw comes during a scene in which Tommy Lee Jones makes a speech while standing in front of a window which sports mini-blinds -- this creates some overscanning. The audio side is even more impressive. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track sounds fantastic. Along with crystal clear dialogue, the track provides nearly non-stop surround sound action. The exceptional sound design in the film is very discernible here, as each discreet sound, most notably in the battle and chase scenes, finds its own unique place in the speaker placement. The scene in Chapter 3, in which Hallam pursues the hunters through the woods, is incredible, as Hallam's voice comes from every direction. There is also a satisfying amount of bass response as well. Overall, The Hunted DVD stands out as a great technical demo-disc.

This DVD contains a smattering of extra features. We start with an audio commentary from director William Friedkin. Friedkin speaks at length throughout the film, rarely taking any long pauses. However, many of his comments are scene specific, as he talks at length about the inspiration for the film and the meanings of the story. (Information which can be found elsewhere in the extras.) When he does focus on the film, he gives a good deal of information about the actors and the production. There is much more knowledge given in the four documentaries included here. "Pursuing the Hunted" (8 minutes) introduces us to Tom Brown, the real-life tracker on which Tommy Lee Jones' character was based. This segment also features interviews with the principal cast and crew, as they discuss the story and the cast. "Filming the Hunted" (9 minutes) gives an overview of the film's production, as Friedkin explains the film's look and discusses how various scenes were shot. Tom Brown is featured again in "Tracking the Hunted" (4 minutes), as he discusses tracking strategies. And with "The Cutting Edge" (9 minutes), Friedkin talks about the Oregon locations and we get a behind-the-scenes look at the fight choreography. These featurettes are pretty good but, as with the extras on Paramount's How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, these segments could have been edited together into one long feature. The DVD also contains six deleted scenes, which don't fill in any of the major plotholes, and the film's original trailer, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus