Watching two intense actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro run around in a piece of junk like The Hunted is just depressing. Somebody probably thought it would be cool to pit these two against each other, man to man, but apparently that was where the thought put into any sort of story ends. As an action movie, The Hunted is passable, because it feels like one sustained chase scene, but it fails on pretty much every other level. It feels like some combination of First Blood and any number of Jones movies where he's chasing somebody, be it Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, Wesley Snipes, aliens, or just about anything else. Worse, the person he's chasing is usually innocent, or determining his/her innocence is a large part of the plot. So The Hunted has a very familiar feel to it.
Here, Jones (Men in Black II, Space Cowboys) is L.T. Bonham, a guy that used to teach Special Ops soldiers how to kill. Now, he lives off in the boonies somewhere, away from people. He's called in to help FBI Agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen, One Hour Photo, Gladiator) in her investigation on the deaths of some hunters in the woods near Seattle. Their prey is Aaron Hallam (Del Toro, Traffic, The Pledge), a Special Ops officer with a severe case of battle stress based on some of the things he did (maybe in Kosovo, where the prologue has him). Or not. He claims that the government is out to get him, and at one point somebody alludes to a hit gone wrong. One of the massive gaping holes present is that nobody ever answers the question. At the beginning of the film, he is killing hunters who are using highly sophisticated weapons to kill animals. He thinks it's unfair to the animals. But then again, they may actually be hunting him. Another is that Hallam was sending letters to Bonham, presumably explaining something, but Bonham either never read them or never answered them.
Director William Friedkin (Rules of Engagement, Jade) wanted to focus on the primal energy between the two protagonists; between the predator and the prey. It was a mistake. The movie boils down to Bonham chasing Hallam through the woods, then the city, then back through the woods. Heck, they even have time near the end to make their own weapons (the better to hack at each other with). There is not enough substance in the movie to make the audience care that these two men are going after each other. However, in an attempt to generate some sympathy towards Hallam, writers Peter Griffiths and David Griffiths (Collateral Damage) and Art Monterastelli (who was also a producer, which is a bad sign) give him a girlfriend with a cute little girl. If she loves him, surely he can't be all that bad?
Jones and Del Toro don't have much acting to do. Jones' staccato, authoritative delivery is the same as it always it. He would be more interesting to watch if the story could generate a little excitement. The fight scenes between the two are surprisingly brutal, but it is a little laughable seeing how evenly matched the two are. Sure, Bonham taught Hallam everything he knew, but Bonham is a little, uh, older, while Hallam is still active in the military. Or not. Nielsen is there only to, well, actually, she doesn't really do much at all. It all boils down to a lack of any meaningful substance. Without it, The Hunted feels dull and empty, and isn't really worth watching.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.|
|1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated R for strong bloody violence and some language.|
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