The Hunted (2003)

Wilderness Survival
Film review by: Witney Seibold

The Hunted 2003
            When I was about 14, I took a wilderness survival course at Boy Scout camp. It was taught by a grizzled Scoutmaster who knew how to make a working drawbridge with sticks and twine. He seemed to want more than anything to be lost in the woods someday, presumably so he could practice his ultramasculine skills of building fires and eating toads. It is in this sweaty, manly mindset that William Friedkin’s film “The Hunted” takes place.

            L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), now a cabin-dwelling mountain man, once taught a military course in wilderness survival and efficient murder. A student of his, Aaron (Benicio Del Toro), PTSDing after Kosovo, begins murdering people in the woods using homemade knives, just the way Bonham used to teach. The story, such as it is, follows L.T. and the FBI (represented by Connie Nielsen) as they try to chase down the killer through the wilderness of Oregon, and occasionally through the streets of Portland. There are other details involved – Aaron wants to hook up with an old girlfriend (Leslie Stefanson), etc. – but these details can be dismissed, as the fights and chases are really the film’s center.
            About those fights and chases. They are spectacular. The knife fights are gritty; rather than two choreographed actors, we see two experienced, survival-minded men having at one another. The chases are clever and engaging (Friedkin, after all, did the famous chase in “The French Connection”). The lighting is low and lush, and the film is a pleasure to look at.
            Can these capable chases and talented actors save the staggeringly banal story? Not quite. I didn’t have any real feelings as the film unspooled. The film wanted us to sympathize with the characters, and even get behind a manly father-son dynamic (Johnny Cash croons of “Abe ‘n’ God” on the soundtrack), but it failed. Del Toro’s usual smirking glibness came across as overacting, and a lot of the story seemed forced in sideways in order to get to the next fight. Friedkin has made some of the best films ever, and his skill is unmistakable in “The Hunted,” but now he needs to start looking for more important material.

Tommy Lee Jones (center) protects his brood.

Tommy Lee Jones (center) protects his brood.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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