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The Hunted

How would one best describe The Hunted? Just think of any other reasonably intriguing film that you passed up when it was in the theater, and then perhaps you never really got around to renting it at your local shop or putting it in your Netflix basket. Lo and behold, two years later you find you have nothing to do on a Sunday night and that The Hunted is the ABC-TV Movie of the Week. "Hey," you suddenly perk up, "I haven't see that. And it has Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, and I probably can watch it before bed and finish the book I'm reading while I'm at it." And while The Hunted is far from a bad movie, that's about the level of excitement it's bound to generate — with two popular stars and a cookie-cutter plot, it's about as stimulating as an old pair of bedroom slippers. Jones stars as L.T. Bonham, a long-time contractor to the U.S. military who has retired to the woods of British Columbia to work for a wildlife fund. It's a relatively peaceful life for a man who used to train Special Forces assassins to track their human prey and kill without noise nor remorse, but one of Bonham's former protégés, Aaron Hallam (Del Toro), returns from a tour of Kosovo and snaps, slaying four hunters in the Pacific Northwest, convinced they are government "sweepers" out to kill him. Bonham is brought back to the States to track Hallam, but his unconventional one-man tactics clash with the by-the-book procedures of the FBI, and in particular Agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen). Hallam is picked up and transferred to FBI custody in Portland, but before long he escapes, forcing Bonham to use his tracking skills in an unfamiliar, hectic urban environment. It doesn't take much effort to watch The Hunted, or enjoy it as a low-wattage chase movie, but the most notable thing about the picture is that such a talented team could deliver something this mediocre. Director William Friedkin hasn't had a bona fide hit for years, but this looked like a meat-and-potatoes project for the man who directed The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A.. Friedkin does get one reasonably good sequence with a train-chase across a bridge, but it lacks the length and hyperkinetic energy of his better chase scenes. Tommy Lee Jones is welcome in just about any movie — like Samuel L. Jackson, he's a movie star who sells his persona as a part of his performance. However, just as nobody will ever let Jackson outlive the last ten minutes of Pulp Fiction, Jones will continue to put food on his table by playing variations of U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard from The Fugitive, and The Hunted charts little new territory. And while Del Toro gets a plum part with the renegade Hallam, the script fails to give him a worthy motivation for fleeing the authorities — instead of planning revenge for a betrayal most foul, it would seem he's upset by the amount of chickens that are slaughtered for human consumption every year. Thankfully, the entire movie clocks in at a brisk 94 minutes, and the last half-hour is largely dialogue-free — it's always nice when a director is willing to push a story with a minimum of conversation, but also disconcerting when it comes as a relief. Paramount's DVD release of The Hunted features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Supplements include four featurettes on the film's background and production, while the commentary from Friedkin is informative, if long-winded — the director often takes a minute to say something that can be said in ten seconds, and his stream-of-consciousness patter takes him everywhere from classical and jazz music to film comedy and the Sherlock Holmes series. Keep-case.

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