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The Hunted

movie reviewvideo review out of 4


*Also starring: Connie Nielsen, Jenna Boyd, Leslie Stefanson



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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie review
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3.  Susan Granger read the review movie review
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5.  Jerry Saravia read the review movie review

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

In the role of a tracker, Aaron Hallam, and in the role of a trainer of trackers, L.T. Bonham, Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones respectively could be poster boys for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). PETA is among the most radical of animal rights groups in the U.S., thinking nothing of picketing fur shops and in some special cases splashing red dye on walking fur coats and invading labs to free creatures destined for vivisection. In one opening scene, L.T. Bonham spots a wolf caught in a trap, its front leg mangled and bloody. He frees the wolf ("Get out of here!" he instructs the injured animal), heads into the tavern to ask who set the trap, and promptly bashes the poor guy's head on the table. For his part, Aaron Hallam spots a couple of deer hunters using superscopic sights in the Oregon woods, confuses them as he throws his voice around the area to challenge their ethics, and ends up killing the two of them without even the use of a pistol. Unfortunately for the two heroes, hunting and trapping are both legal. Still, the good people in the audience will root for the pro-animal people, even more for Aaron because the tracker manages to kill the leader of a Serb militia on an ethnic cleaning mission in Kosovo during America's moral role in the area. Once again, just a knife.

"The Hunted" is an action drama with an Oedipal subtext, director William Friedkin opening by quoting rather freely from the first book of the Bible in which God instructs Abraham to kill his son, Isaac. The quote is pushing things because "The Hunted" does not deal metaphorically with any sort of rebellion by Isaac but mostly because the film has no substance that could justify the use of such a pretension. Photographed beautifully by Caleb Deschanel in Portland and the Oregon forests and supported by a dandy, contemporary score by Brian Tyler, "The Hunted" appears to have virtually no plot despite Art Monterastelli's billing as a screenwriter. Editor Augie Hess could easily have pasted together a series of action shots from a multitude of other features the car chase, the leap from the bridge, the domestic drama, the video-game-like war footage allowing Friedkin to direct two fine performers who probably need little direction.

The story's core, for what it is, is the search for the wily and skillful professional assassin, Aaron Hallam, who has been trained for commando combat by L.T. Bonham. Bonham, who has never killed a man, feels guilty that his prize pupil, silver-star winner Hallam, has gone berserk. Battle scarred, dreaming constantly about the horrors of Kosovo, Hallam has not been able to "turn it off." He lives to kill and seems to enjoy what he's doing, even having a pretext to off hunters as when he protests that six billion chickens are killed every year to please American palates. He's captured, He's free. He's held at gunpoint. He's free. In one scene, FBI agents operating secretly with a mandate from the attorney general himself take him prisoner, put him in a truck where they are set to execute him with a dose of poison in his nostrils. But they forget that dangerous people are supposed to be handcuffed in the BACK, not the front. You can guess what Hallam does with his pair of handcuffs to get out of that mess.

Tommy Lee Jones, bearded and appropriately guilt-ridden, is determined to bring in the man, even warning a team of FBI agents not to follow the prey because they will only be rewarded with a high body count. Instead he will personally capture the guy without a knife, without a gun, through the forests and over rapids even though (in real life) he's 57 years old and the tracker, who keeps in shape via a surfeit of killings, is (in real life) 36.

"The Hunted" is quite a step down for the great William Friedkin whose "French Connection" like "The Hunted" deals with the mixture of good and bad within the individual but with a stunning, complex story to tell. Has the man who made "The Exorcist," "To Live and Die in L.A.," and "Rules of Engagement" backtracked to a picture that in quality could be compared more to Friedkin's "Jade"?

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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