HUNTED, THE: DVD
When a posse of deer hunters are mysteriously slain in the Oregon woods, the FBI enlist the help of retired Special Forces instructor L T Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) to sniff out the predator. Bonham soon points the finger at ex-assassin Aaron Hallam (Benecio Del Toro), his most prized protégé who has gone loco since surviving the atrocities of war-torn Kosovo. Though reluctant to take on Hallam, Bonham sets chase in a deadly game of cat and mouse, where years of training, street-smart wits, blending in and engaging the enemy mean the difference between life and death.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Originally slated for a cinematic release but strangely going straight to video instead, this derivative bloodbath sees two top-line actors punch, kick, stab and basically beat each other into a gory pulp. Very Sam Peckinpah. But it's not; it's William Friedkin, who directs with his own brand of gritty French Connection violence. Could he not have fashioned The Hunted into anything other than a shameless B-grade rip-off of First Blood, where a highly-trained killing machine (a suitably spooky Del Doro) has flashbacks to the war, malfunctions, and mistakes civilians for enemies? No. There is nothing original about it, as US critics widely noted, which is probably the real reason why it went straight to video here - despite its dubious MA rating.
The only real difference it has with First Blood is that Jones - in Richard Crenna's role in the Rambo movies - is actually ordered to go after "his boy" and bring him in dead or alive. It's brutal stuff, with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel working efficiently to capture one chase and confrontation scene after the next. Friedkin is better at action than words (witness his French Connection's riveting subway chase), so even when The Hunted's second half reduces the dialogue to a minimum, the film remains oddly gripping. But once Del Toro's unintentionally funny modus operandi is revealed - that surrogate father Jones didn't love him enough - you can't help but think that the killer's war path could have been averted with a good hug.
On DVD, Friedkin delivers a lively but disengaging commentary on the inception of this and other projects, playing more like an egotistical conversation than a screen-specific piece. The four documentaries are better. In Pursing the Hunted, which includes interviews with Jones, Del Toro and Nielsen, we see how Friedkin grappled with the concept after meeting real-life tracker Tom Brown, until a remarkably similar script landed in his lap. In Filming the Hunted, Friedkin discusses the production's technicalities. Tracking the Hunted is a glimpse into Brown and how he spent seven years fashioning Del Toro's knife, and The Cutting Edge investigates the choreography of the many fight sequences. Finishing with some half-decent deleted scenes, The Hunted on DVD is worth a look for cinema lovers who missed it on the big screen, but avid video store goers will surely find something better - and less violent - on the shelves.
Published January 22, 2004
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HUNTED, THE (MA)
CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Benecio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen
DIRECTOR: William Friedkin
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 16:9 widescreen Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Director William Friedkin, Documentaries,
Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: December 10, 2003