The Hunted (2003) a (very) Belated Review

Weird how things work out, no? A few days ago I reviewed a film called The Hunt (you can read it here) and yesterday I catch the William Friedkin directed, Tommy Lee Jones, Benecio Del Toro, and Connie Nielsen starring 2003 film The Hunted.

Other than the fact that we do have a person “hunting” -and being hunted!- by another person, these films have very little else in common. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Those familiar with director William Friedkin no doubt are familiar with his two best known films, The Exorcist and The French Connection. Those who are really familiar with him know he made two other pretty damn good films beyond those, Sorcerer and To Live and Die In L.A.

But, like just about any creative soul out there, there are hits and there are misses and Mr. Friedkin has certainly had a few films that are simply not up to the caliber of those I mention above.

I would put The Hunted on that list but would quickly add that just because it doesn’t quite reach the level of “prime” William Friedkin doesn’t mean the film is bad.

In fact, I mostly enjoyed The Hunted for what it was, a for the most part straightforward action film which pits Mr. Jones and Mr. Del Toro’s characters against each other.

The plot goes like this: Aaron Hallman (Benecio Del Toro) was trained along with many other U.S. military men by L. T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) to be a merciless, shadowy killer. He does his job only too well but in the hellish conditions of the Serbian war, he cracks.

Stateside, he brutally kills two hunters and the F.B.I., including agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen), contact the now retired Bonham to help them hunt and capture the man responsible for these killings. They don’t know it, but Bonham recognizes the characteristics of the kill and suspects the person responsible is one of his trainees.

Bonham is an interesting character. He claims to have never fired a weapon (and, indeed, in the movie he never does) and while he trained people in how to kill, he himself claims to have never actually done so. Further, he now lives in a remote mountain cabin and appears uninterested in harming anyone or any animal (he helps one early on) despite the fact that he possesses the knowledge and skills to do so.

Though reluctant to join the F.B.I., Bonham does so and soon confirms the killer is one of “his”. He tells the F.B.I. to stand back and goes on the hunt for the killer, soon coming face to face with him.

I don’t want to get into spoilers here, so I won’t discuss more of the plot but it is very straightforward as I said above. Unlike some of the better Friedkin works, this one doesn’t have layers of meaning below the surface. The movie essentially plays out like a variation of the first Rambo film, First Blood, only the “bad” guy in this case is the one with the PTSD.

The action is for the most part well done but toward the film’s climax things got a little wonky. It seemed like there were scenes missing here and there. For example, one sequence has Bonham jumping on a train and in the background you can clearly see the police with drawn guns moving toward the train, yet at no point before that moment are they behind the train! Further, when Bonham heads out for the final confrontation between himself and Hallman, there are odd sequences interspersed, of the F.B.I. flying around the general area (it seems very unlikely these two wouldn’t notice helicopters near them) and the way Bonham tracks Hellman also seems a little disjointed. Further, it strains credulity that both Bonham and Hellman have the time -and are not bothered!- while they create weapons to fight each other. This is particularly silly in the case of Hellman’s weapon… I’ll say no more!

Still, as I said before, the film is for the most part an entertaining if not extraordinary action film which benefits from the charisma of the leads.

Not spectacular, but recommended nonetheless.