The Hunted

The Hunted posterRated R
Running Time: 1 hour and 34 minutes
Directed by William Friedkin
Screenplay by David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, and
Art Monterastelli


I like action films. I also like the stars involved in “The Hunted”. I really enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive” and I thought Benicio del Toro was great in “The Usual Suspects” and in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. However, I was not wild about this film.

“The Hunted” is little more than a rip-off of “Rambo” with a bit of “The Fugitive” thrown in for good measure. We see a highly trained Special Forces operative go nuts and an old trainer of his come out of retirement to help subdue him before he kills any more innocents.
However, in “Rambo”, the lead character is fully explored and we understand the tragedy of how he’s ended up where he is. In “The Hunted”, the lead character is barely explored with a few flashbacks to his traumatic missions. We never find out if, as he claims, del Toro’s character was given a raw deal by the military. In fact, little is explored at all, besides tracking, making knives, and using them.

Dialogue is very minimal in this film. What’s said is nothing more than macho bravado, as when Jones quips, “If I’m not back in two days, you’ll know I’m dead.”

The Navy Seal knife-fighting techniques on display were expertly choreographed and give the film a sheen of authenticity. However, if I want to see realistic violence, all I have to do is turn on CNN for the latest updates on the situation in the Middle East. Without the framing of a good story, all the effort of making the fights realistic is wasted.

You never really feel much emotion for either the hunter or the hunted. This is simply a prolonged chase sequence with several well designed knife fights thrown in. On that basis, it succeeds, so the film isn’t a total loss. Hence, the C.

Don’t waste your money to see it on the big screen. If you like the premise, wait for it on VHS or DVD and watch it when you have nothing better to do.


Flashback to 1999. Aaron Hallam (Benicio del Toro) is an elite Special Forces operative sent on a mission to assassinate a bloodthirsty Serbian officer responsible for a genocidal campaign against Albanian families. After witnessing the murder of innocent civilians, Aaron sneaks in unnoticed with a knife and guts the evil Serb officer like a fish.

Present day. L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) is a retired Special Forces trainer, now serving as a Canadian Forest Ranger. He is tracking an injured white wolf through the snowy landscape of British Columbia. He runs through the snow and catches up to the animal, which has a wire snare around one foot. L.T. pulls at the bloody snare and talks gently to the snarling wolf. Once the snare is off, the wolf lopes away. Then, identifying the illegal snare from some engraved initials, L.T. finds the poacher in a local bar and beats the man’s head against a table, warning him not to set any more traps.

Meanwhile, in the woods of Oregon, Aaron Hallam has gone AWOL from the Special Forces to conduct his own wildlife protection plan. Two deer hunters in camo and orange vests find themselves taunted by Hallam’s ghostly voice. He accuses them of trying to hunt him down and says that they are merely posing as hunters. The hunters spin around with their rifles. Each rifle is equipped with an outlandishly large, expensive scope, but despite this, they can’t find Hallam. He uses the canopy of the trees (much like in “Predator”) to avoid them. Then, after tiring of the games, he guts them, and quarters them, just like they’d planned on doing with the deer they were hunting.

Apparently, Aaron has killed two other hunters in the area before this, and desperate, the FBI calls on L.T., who is possibly the best tracker in North America. Intrigued by pictures of the crime scene, L.T. comes out of his semi-retirement.

As stated earlier, L.T. had at one time been a trainer for U.S. Special Forces. Although never a military man himself, L.T.’s father had been an army officer who’d already lost one son in the Vietnam War, and determined not to lose another, had trained L.T. extensively, beyond what even the military’s most elite were required to learn. L.T. has never had to kill a man. In his time, however, he’s trained hundreds to do just that.

Upon accepting the tracking assignment and arriving at the scene, L.T. quickly deduces that the man they’re after is someone he’s trained. The knife wounds and the snares are too distinctive to have been made by anyone else.

L.T. says he works alone, but a beautiful FBI agent, Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen), insists he take a cell phone with him. L.T. proves successful in locating Aaron and they square off, fighting briefly before L.T. is knocked senseless against a fallen log. It turns out, though, that the cell phone Abby insisted on contained a tracer. The FBI descend on Aaron before he can do anything else.

It seems as though things are finished, however, the FBI find they hold no jurisdiction over Aaron. He is taken into custody by the men he trusted least, Special Forces Agents who in fact, do want to kill him. Since Aaron is privy to national secrets, they cannot hold an open court to try him in. So, they plan on administering a lethal gas to him and disposing of him quietly. Aaron, however, has other plans, and in a daring move, kills his captors by crashing the transport van he’s in, then finishing off the last survivor with the very gas they’d planned on executing him with.

L.T. hears about the crash just before getting on a plane to go back to British Columbia. He then teams up with Agent Abby Durrell to try and stop Aaron from killing even more people. There is some attempt made in the film to create sexual tension between L.T. and Abby, but it just doesn’t work. The age gap is too wide. When, oh when, will Hollywood learn? Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson are too old to play love interests to these hot young starlets.

The next stop in the chase is rather predictable and clichÈ. They track Aaron to a suburban home where he is hiding out with his girlfriend and her young daughter. There is a pleasant interlude where the murderous Aaron shows his kinder, gentler side, by showing the young daughter how to track squirrels and cats by following their prints in the long grass of their front yard. Then, L.T. finds Aaron and the chase begins.

Aaron leaves behind his loved ones, taking their car on a high speed chase turned crash-derby when he forces his way through a traffic jam. This in itself is almost worth the price of admission. As a L.A. freeway commuter, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about doing just that — plowing your car straight through the traffic jam to reach the other side!

The car chase eventually becomes a foot chase, again, and L.T. shows his almost uncanny tracking ability, finding Aaron no matter where he goes, just like magic.

Things escalate until finally Aaron climbs high atop a bridge and dives into the river below, presumably to die.

L.T. knows Aaron can “swim like a fish”, however, and follows the tide’s natural currents to the most likely shorebank, then picks up Aaron’s trail once more. During the chase, though, both men have lost their weapons.

Next, we go through a couple of sequences where both men prepare for the final showdown by making their own knives. L.T. chips away at a large piece of flint to make a small fighting blade the size of a large spearhead. Aaron, by some wild coincidence, finds several bands of spring steel that are the perfect width and thickness to make a steel bowie knife out of. With only native materials, he manages to make a small forge and put an edge and balance onto a broken piece of metal. Personally, I found this a little hokey.

Then comes the final confrontation. I won’t give it away, except to say there’s a lot of blood. In fact, del Toro’s costume reflects the reality of knife-fighting by having several pieces of rope tied loosely at various points in case the combatant needs to tighten them as tourniquets because of a wound.

I won’t give away the concluding scenes, but you can probably surmise them for yourself.