Tommy Lee Jones loves a good chase. He has hunted down the likes of Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Ashley Judd in past films, and now Benicio Del Toro becomes his prey in “The Hunted.” Exploding with action, this movie is definitely not for the weak of heart.
Aaron Hallam (Del Toro) is introduced on a very dangerous mission in the middle of the war in Kosovo. Both Hallam and the audience are witness to disgusting displays of genocide as the Russians order everyone in town to be killed. These disturbing images are enough to scar even the mind of a professionally trained killer like Hallam. Permanently damaged by these events, he now lives in the woods turning predators into prey. Covered in camouflage, he toys with a couple of deer hunters before “filleting them like deer.”
L.T. Bonham (Jones) is first seen following a trail of blood through the woods. He finally finds what he’s looking for, a wolf that has stepped on a snare. After helping the wolf free his leg and administer some herbal remedy, Bonham then takes out his anger on the owner of the snare. Hallam and Bonham, however, are not all that different. Bonham trained Hallam to be what he is. As he puts it, “I trained him to survive, I trained him to kill.” Since Bonham created Hallam, only Bonham can stop Hallam.
This may be a familiar role for Jones, but it is definitely a different story. In “The Hunted,” Bonham lives deep in the wintry woods, works for a wildlife organization and his weapon of choice is a knife. Strangely uncomfortable around civilization, he throws up after getting off a helicopter and is unable to sit or stand still when inside the police department. But the typical Jones qualities are still there, demanding to work alone, quick to respond and always having the last word.
Although it might not be apparent initially, Hallam is the stereotypical target for Jones. Hallam claims many victims throughout the movie, but who is to blame for what he has become? Not only did Bonham create him, but he also ignored Hallam’s cries for help. The military betrayed him by claiming that some of his victims during the war were unarmed innocents, although Hallam swears they had weapons. It is also hinted that the military sent the deer hunters to try and bring down Hallam. Although Hallam does commit these unholy murders during the movie, one wonders if he would have just vanished had he been left alone.
Director William Friedkin’s sound techniques are crucial in creating the uncivilized atmosphere of the movie. The near silence in the woods allows for the audience to hear every little noise, from bird calls to the cracking of a twig. When Bonham and Hallam are one on one, very little dialogue is used. Instead, grunting and yelling fill the soundtrack. And the choice of music further distinguishes the movie as a hunt and not just a chase.
“The Hunted” combines shear physical toughness, supercharged fight sequences and a lucrative game of cat and mouse to create a stellar movie. Bonham’s tracking intuition and Hallam’s elusive animal instincts pull you into the hunt. Each confrontation pitting the two equally talented actors against each other provide some great, high-powered tension. The duo of Jones and Del Toro is quite a respectable follow-up to predecessors like “Rambo.”
At Showcase and Quality 16
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars.