Cut to the chase: Bad movie

March 14, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Cut. Slash. Kill.

The Hunted has lots of that, but not much else. An ode to the nobility of killing things with your hands and eschewing such unfair accoutrements as guns (sharp things apparently are OK, so long as they're crafted by hand), the movie makes almost no sense whatsoever and should be seen only by those who have long wondered who would win a knife fight between stars Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro.

Director William Friedkin seems to be making some statement here about how violence is OK, maybe even glorious, so long as it's inflicted mano a mano. There's certainly little other point to this thing; even as an action thriller, it's too ludicrous to be anything but annoying.

Del Toro is Aaron Hallam, a professional assassin for the U.S. military we first see plying his trade during some awful business in Kosovo, where he proves ruthless, efficient and adept at brooding. Next thing we know, Del Toro is hiding out in the Oregon woods, slicing up hunters who depend on high-tech guns for their recreation. And then we watch as Jones, living a back-to-nature existence in the Alaskan wilderness, saves a pure white wolf caught in a snare trap. Oh, the symbolism!

Jones' character is named L.T. Bonham, and his occupation before retiring to a life of constant snow-blindness was training military recruits in the art of killing. Hallam was once his prize pupil, and the FBI, tired of finding hunters in the woods who look like they've been fricasseed, wants Bonham (who's also an expert tracker) to help find Hallam before he slices and dices again.

And so he does. And the battle, pitting teacher against pupil, is joined.

The Hunted simply leaves too much hanging. What, one wonders, made Hallam snap? Was it seeing the face of a young girl, just before finishing his mission in Serbia, and being haunted by her innocence and terror? But wouldn't killing the guy he kills help her? And why does he vent his anger by killing otherwise innocent hunters (if you can call anyone who kills for pleasure innocent, a theme the movie visits briefly, but never develops)?

Jones and Del Toro never really seem to get with the program, and the story has them turned into supermen, who get stabbed in the leg one second and are back running at full speed the next. These guys treat knife wounds more blithely than you and I regard paper cuts.

To be fair, Friedkin does amp up the tension when called for. If only it were all for some purpose, or in service to a story that actually went somewhere. Watching this, the years when Friedkin was responsible for such masterpieces as The Exorcist and The French Connection seem ages ago indeed.

The Hunted

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro

Directed by William Friedkin

Released by Paramount Pictures

Rated R (Language, violence)

Time 94 minutes

Sun Score *1/2

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