The Hunted is a film that masquerades as a new film but it is in fact a film so similar to others that it could even be a remake – not necessarily a bad thing though. Directed by veteran film maker William Friedkin and staring two of the best actors in cinema today The Hunted manages to entertain based on its performances and action pieces rather than its plot.
During a tour in Kosovar, US Special Forces assassin Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) witnesses dozens of Albanians being gunned down by Serb paramilitaries. The trauma of these events emerges after Aaron returns to the United States. No longer with the Special Forces, and also no longer in touch with reality, Aaron starts brutally slaughtering hunters in the backwoods of Oregon using nothing but the weapon that he specialises in – a hunting knife.
The FBI call in L. T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) who is an expert tracker living in the sparsely populated reaches of British Columbia. L.T used to train Special Forces in tracking and killing and it materialises that Aaron used to be his protégé. With the help of FBI investigator Abby Durrell (Connie Nielson) L.T is soon on the heels of Aaron.
Aaron, who can now no longer differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys he left behind in Kosovar, isn’t a man who is just going to give himself up. His battle fatigue is so deep that it has become part of his psyche and he will do anything to survive.
The Hunted is very similar to the first (and best) Rambo film First Blood. Tommy Lee Jones does the Colonel Trautman role and even has lines that seem lifted straight out of First Blood such as the warning about sending too many men will result in a large amount of body bags returning and the “I’ll bring my boy back” speech. Another common thread includes an uncannily similar scene to First Blood where Aaron hunts two hunters in the forest by laying traps and hiding in trees. This scene in particular looks and feels identical to the first Rambo film and you nearly expect Sylvester Stallone to pop up in the background hunting a police posse armed with a knife too. There are also similarities to The Fugitive also starring Tommy Lee Jones especially the locations and look of The Hunted.
The performances are great with Tommy Lee Jones taking the top honours. His portrayal of L.T is superb and seeing him teach his ‘kill class’ in a flashback looks so natural that its seems that he could really creep up and kill you by stabbing you five times with surgical precision in less than two seconds. He has a real understated and somewhat minimalist acting style that makes him dangerous. Benicio Del Toro is also very good and even though he does mumble his way through some of his dialogue he manages to be less of a villain and more of a sympathetic character at times.
The film is violent – and surprisingly so. There are some very graphic one-on-one knife fights that show how efficient these men are with their weapons. It’s not glamorised at all, its brutal and bloody knife fighting at its most animalistic. The opening scene in Kosovar is very brutal and violent and sets the pace for the rest of the film. The action pieces (mostly) are good and seem much more realistic and less glamorised than in other films – for example one of the many chase sequences takes place in not an open road but a heavy traffic jam.
On the whole The Hunted is an entertaining enough film that has some tense moments and chases, all set to some excellent cinematography. There are a few moments that let it down, such as the main protagonists forging and making razor sharp knife whilst out in the sticks from materials they find lying around. Fair enough you say – but they use a bonfire to heat the metal up, forge knifes and sharpen them – all within an hour. A moment that even The A-Team would have been proud off – all that was missing was BA standing behind them shouting “Ah ain’t going in no plane Hannibal”
The Hunted, although similar to other films, does manage to entertain and make the audience to think at the same time. The underlying question is if a man trains another man to kill, doe he then become responsible for the killers action to some extent?
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