The Hunted (2003) starring Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Leslie Stefanson directed by William Friedkin Movie Review

The Hunted (2003)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Tommy Lee Jones as L.T. Bonham in The Hunted

Confronted and Hunted by Tommy Lee Jones

Having returned from service, US Special Forces operative Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro - The Fan) finds himself haunted by the memories of the brutal killings he committed and goes native in the woods. When the FBI become aware of Hallam they call on L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones - Men in Black II), the man who trained Hallam to kill, to help hunt him down and bring him in. But with Hallam becoming both deadly and elusive Bonham must pit his wits against someone who is as good as himself.

The storyline to "The Hunted" has plenty of potential, we have this military operative, a trained killer who having been haunted by the secret killing missions he performed in the heat of war goes native in the woods as he believes people are after him. Except that side of the movie, the mental damage which Hallam incurred is never played upon, we get to see his ruthlessness in war and a snippet of him struggling to sleep but other than that there is nothing, no in-depth look at the emotional damage he suffered. Which leaves Benicio Del Toro as Aaron Hallam creeping around or being hunted and dispatching people with ruthless abandon, a knife through the arm, a thrust to the chest but that's all.

Benicio Del Toro as Aaron Hallam in The Hunted

Then we have the expert, the survivalist who trained Hallam to become a killing machine. Except that's all there is and it almost feels like having done movies where he went bombing all over the place hunting down fugitives, Tommy Lee Jones finds himself pigeon holed in another hunter role. Not a bad thing but the character of L.T. Bonham s flat, cold, emotionless and as such when he goes chasing Hallam through the woods, across bridges and on trains the whole thing lacks the intensity and power because Bonham is passionless, just hunting him down. It's a shame as Jones is capable of powerful acting and delivering even more powerful dialogue, but here he is muted by a character which is made to be strong and silent.

What I think we are meant to be getting is like a sort of father son relationship with Bonham having mentored Hallam becoming like a father figure. Even the opening scenes which features the voice of Johnny Cash reciting lyrics from the song "Highway 61" which go "Oh God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son'" insinuates that "The Hunted" is a movie which plays on this father son type relationship. Except it doesn't because other than the beginning and end it doesn't focus on it at all. Yes we see Bonham training Hallam to be an assassin but at the same time we see him training many young men; it just doesn't come across.

So what does that leave, well a movie which relies on some action, often brutal and visual, and a bit of semi cleverness when it comes to the skills of both the hunter and the hunted. Trouble is that much of the action ends up being routine with chases, hand to hand fights and even a car chase thrown in for good measure, none of which really manages to deliver edge of your seat excitement. The hunting down elements are nice, and as Tommy Lee Jones was tutored by a tracking expert there is some realism to them, although a little bit over done as director William Friedkin, the same Friedkin who gave us "The Exorcist", tries to turn up the excitement.

In amongst all the almost formulaic nonsense "The Hunted" has its moments a split second camera angle focussing on Del Toro's eyes, a knife being thrust through an arm causing blood to spurt out all have impact, except they are just moments in an otherwise strangely boring movie. Even supporting performances from Connie Nielsen and Leslie Stefanson add little to a movie which relies on Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro to carry it.

What this all boils down to is that "The Hunted" ends up being a flat, often boring movie rather than one which gets you on the edge of your seat gripped by the action and drama. For me it fails to really deliver an interesting storyline ending up being a chase movie which in itself is not that overly exciting. There are moments that really work but for the most it failed to deliver the intensity which I was expecting.