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TSM Movie Review: The Hunted

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Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, and Connie Nielsen

Written by David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, and Art Monsterastelli

Directed by William Friedkin

Released by Paramount Pictures; 94 minutes


A movie that clearly wants to be taken seriously, The Hunted is too full of plot holes, shoddy writing, and sheer implausibilities to be treated as anything other than a ninety-minute farce pumped full of testosterone.


Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) is a special operative in the US Army. Through flashback, we learn of his involvement in the 1999 attacks on Kosovo, at the height of the genocide campaign against the Albanians. Though gifted in stealth and deadly fighting arts, Hallam has seen too many battles. The stress has consumed him, and he vanishes into the woods, where he brutally guts two hunters who run afoul of him.


This leads the government to track down the man who trained Hallam, and thus might be able to bring him in: L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones). Already, the movie is treading in the rancid water of cliché, as Bonham is retired, doesn’t want to come out of retirement, and ends up un-retiring for this one job. Preferring to work alone, Bonham is forced to work alongside FBI Agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen) when he’s not off playing Grizzly Adams and tracking his quarry.


Bonham pursues Hallam throughout several lush wooded settings, never quite managing to catch him, but always being left alive at the end. This was one of the more severe head-scratchers in the film: if you know a man is hunting you, why would you leave him alive when you have several chances to kill him? The sylvan chase scenes are interrupted by Hallam’s escape from federal custody, which is ridiculous in its execution, and also manages to paint the FBI as doddering morons who can’t keep one man in a van despite outnumbering him four to one.


Eventually, of course, Bonham and Hallam have their Final Showdown, which is probably the bloodiest knife fight I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s also one of the most impossible, as Tommy Lee Jones sustains injuries that would have debilitated him on the spot (a puncture wound in one leg, a large slash behind one ear, a deep gash on one hand, two nasty slash wounds across the stomach, and a knife being driven completely through his upper arm), and probably killed him in short order. If you’re a fan of realism as embodied in the physical limitations of two men, The Hunted is clearly not for you.


The real shame of this movie – aside from the faults mentioned above – is that it manages to waste two perfectly good actors in roles that could have been played by people of lesser pedigree. Neither of the main characters is given any time to develop, apart from the facile flashback sequence which opens the film (and manages to trivialize the events in Kosovo at the same time). If anything, Hallam’s character is compromised when the film tries to give him a message: on a few occasions, he talks about man’s inhumanity to animals, and how many of them we kill for our own purposes, setting himself up as some kind of avenging angel. The problem is, he’s the villain of the movie, and he’s supposed to be a psycho who guts people for sport. Make him a psycho and let him be the villain without trying to sucker people in the audience into thinking he’s actually trying to do some good, and is just misguided. That’s simply irresponsible storytelling.


While it tries to emulate the underrated First Blood, The Hunted is just a pretentious exercise in violence and bad storytelling. Its lead actors manage to turn in good performances in spite of the movie itself, and along with the excellent cinematography and a few solid, kinetic action sequences, they were the film’s only highlights. If you actually think about what you’re watching on the large screen, then avoid this movie; however, if you can switch your brain off and watch an exercise in testosterone, then you just might like The Hunted. I fall into the former category, so I can’t say much for this one. 3/10


Dr. Tom

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