The Hunted

*

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It must have been a doddle to pitch the concept of The Hunted to a film studio. Call it The Fugitive meets The Deer Hunter, starring a Man In Black and a Usual Suspect, with the guy who made The French Connection and The Exorcist in the director's chair. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, everything, actually.

From the opening shot of an obviously miniaturised Kosovian village in flames to the introduction of Tommy Lee Jones's character, jogging through snowy woods in British Columbia to extricate a hanging snare from a white wolf's leg and heal its wound, this film is totally phoney. It even has a lissom FBI officer in charge of operations (Connie Nielsen), being ineffectual in tight trousers.

Gather you cliches and lay them before the god of borrowed ideas, whose name henchforth shall be called Boxofficia. Let the running man be not cruel or dispassionate, but an ecologist with a penchant for serial murder. Let the tracker, with the grey beard, be a solitary fighter for the rights of the unprotected - any creature that looks cute and/or photogenic. Let words linger on lips like hot chocolate, sweetly dark and from a packet. "I trained him to survive; I trained him to kill," says LT (Jones) of Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), the renegade Special Forces vet. "He's a killing machine."

After witnessing Serbian atrocities in Kosovo and perpetuating a few himself, Hallam goes native in the American wilderness, where he lives like a wild thing and takes out passing hunters for wanting to destroy the lives of blameless animals. LT is called away from his cabin in the forest to track down this dangerous ecowarrior. Van loads of FBI sharp shooters are kept on the periphery so that the two men, teacher and pupil, can bond in mortal combat.

Stop it, please!

Jones is acting his socks off. Why didn't anyone tell him that in the Canadian winter, where the snow never melts for months, men wear hats to keep their body heat in, gloves to avoid frostbite and big heavy coats. Del Toro is doing his still-crazy-after-all-these-years oddball at large impression. The trick is not to say much, look furtive in a feral way and handle knives like he was offered Daniel Auteuil's role in The Girl On The Bridge, but couldn't accept due to Traffic problems.

Somewhere in the belly of this junk slush action fiasco, a still small movie exists. It's three minutes long and has Tommy Lee teaching Benicio how to move like a jaguar. When Benicio says, "What am I doing this for?", Tommy Lee replies, "Never ask that question in the Tinsel Village; it destroys an illusion of importance."

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2003
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The Hunted packshot
A trained US army killer is tracked in American wilderness by his former teacher.
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Director: William Friedkin

Writer: David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, Art Monterastelli

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielson, Leslie Stefanson, John Finn, Jose Zuniga, Ron Canada, Mark Pellegrino

Year: 2003

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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