Saturday, September 11, 2010

"The Hunted" (2003)

Starring Tommie Lee Jones, Benicio del Toro and Connie Nielsen
Written by David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths and Art Monterastelli
Directed by William Friedkin

In the woods near Portland, two deer hunters are found slaughtered.  The FBI enlists the help of a tracker and former stealth combat trainer "LT" Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) to help find the killers.  LT quickly realizes that there is only one killer, and he is highly-trained.  He heads off into the woods alone and discovers the killer's lair, and encounters the killer himself: a former student of his, Aaron Hallam (Benicio del Toro).

In the years since they were together, Hallam has become a soulless killing machine.  The horrors he's witnessed and the sheer number of people he's killed have left him hollow and paranoid.  He's a master of stealth, able to kill people who never even know he's there.  The government can't allow knowledge of Hallem to get out into the public, since they're the ones who turned him into what he is.  When Hallem manages to escape from custody, Bonham and the FBI give chase.  Each time, Hallem is able to slip away from their grasp and the body count begins to rise. 

"The Hunted" is a pretty solid action thriller.  It's not the deepest of stories, but the chases are thrilling and these are some of the best knife fights ever put to film.  William Friedkin has, over the years, proven that he's more than capable of putting on a good chase.  Here, he does several, in a couple different settings to give the proceedings variety.  But the chase is the name of the game here.  The characters aren't particularly deep, but the story is well-told and finely produced, bolstered by those excellent chases and fights.

If there's one thing wrong with "The Hunted," it's Tommy Lee Jones.  It's not that he doesn't give a good performance (he does), it's just that... well... I find it hard to believe he could keep up with Benicio del Toro the way he does.  It's not a matter of the training, that part I can readily believe - but it's an issue of stamina.  At every turn, Bonham is able to keep up with Hallem, who must be easily 30 years his junior.  After a while, as cool as these chases are, it began to dawn on me that I didn't really believe Jones was capable of running so fast for so long. 

None of the other characters in the film really matter.  Connie Nielsen is okay as FBI Agent Abby Durrell, but she's mostly just there like all the other members of this team chasing Hallem.  When two of them are killed, we're obviously supposed to care, but we barely even knew their names, so why should we?  No, the focus here is entirely on Bonham and Hallem.  The chases come pretty quick one after another, so there's really no time for the kind of development this movie seems to wish it had.

The final knife fight is killer.  The issue with believability still rears its head, but man are the moves here just friggin' cool.  Bonham and Hallem tear each other to shreds on a rocky riverbank while the FBI closes in.  The moves here are quick and vicious, and these two go at each other with gusto. 

"The Hunted" lives by its chase sequences and it's incredible final knife fight.  The characters aren't much to write home about, but the cast does what they can.  Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro own the entire film, and William Friedkin has delivered another fun thriller.