Some men must be found.
A genre unto itself, the chase picture has provided moviegoers with countless hours of men running after each other on foot, by air, on land and over water, using dogs, guns, knives, bows, and other weapons to eventually beat the snot out of one another. In director William Friedkin's The Hunted, Academy Award winners Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro play tag in both the dense forest and the asphalt jungle, right before smacking each other around like pro wrestlers. Get ready for The Hunted, now on DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
In the Pacific Northwest, it's not a good day to be a game hunter. Drawn and quartered, various hunters throughout the area are being slain by a mysterious killer who leaves little in the way of clues. With the help of a former warfare instructor, L.T. Bonham (Jones), the authorities realize that all signs point to one of Bonham's former students: Aaron Hallam (Del Toro). Once a decorated American solider (and assassin) in Kosovo, Hallam has been permanently damaged by the horrors he saw in the war. Now Hallam has become a renegade, slaughtering innocent civilians without a shred of guilt or remorse. Hallam is good at what he does—too good, in fact. As Hallam evades capture, Bonham realizes that he is the only person who can bring Hallam's rage under control. Unfortunately, Hallam doesn't want to be caged. What will ensue is a considerably savage hunt through the cities and forests until only one man is left standing.
The Hunted is an action movie for people who don't necessarily like action movies. It can be slow at times, even meandering. There are no large nuclear explosions or cars flying off embankments into oncoming traffic. What you do get is Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro in a finely tuned chase by director William Friedkin. Friedkin is best known for helming the groundbreaking horror show The Exorcist, as well as movies featuring exasperating chases like To Live and Die in L.A. and The French Connection. Though The Hunted is not a classic, it does provide some moments of sheer unadulterated pursuit.
I liked this movie. I didn't love it, but I liked it a heck of a lot. Tommy Lee Jones is one of the most interesting actors in Hollywood. Though he's more or less played this exact part before in director Andrew Davis' The Fugitive (and to Oscar winning results), Jones still finds different nuances in this particular character. His ticks and quiet trembling convey a man who is not happy with some of the choices he's made in his life—specifically, teaching others how to kill. He finds a decent rival in Del Toro as Hallam, a man who has cracked like an egg being tossed off a ten-story building. Del Toro's Hallam is less defined than L.T., though that ultimately adds a bit of mystery to the character.
Speaking of being tossed off a ten-story building, one of the enticing things about The Hunted is that the action is never cartoonish or silly. This is a movie about real people doing real stunts and often getting tired in the process. Unlike, say, an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, The Hunted doesn't feature characters getting the snot beat out of them and still being able to whoop everyone in sight. In The Hunted, Jones and Del Toro tire, become exhausted, and fall down. These are real people dealing with the (mostly) real consequences of violence.
Interestingly, there isn't much in the way of a supporting cast, save for Connie Nielson as an FBI field officer on the hunt for Hallam. There are periphery characters hanging around the background, but this is really Jones and Del Toro's show. And what a show it is—the film dispenses with any boring exposition and gets right down to the chase, which is what Friedkin does best. It may not be classic filmmaking, but it is a lot of fun—what more are you looking for with a title like The Hunted?
The Hunted is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I'm very pleased with how good this transfer looks—the colors and black levels are all brightly rendered without any bleeding in the picture. I found no traces of heavy edge enhancement or dirt in the picture. Try as I might, I just couldn't find any major flaws with this transfer. Kudos to Paramount for producing a very fine looking image.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Hey, now here's a nice little sound mix that should pull the viewer deep into the action. There are plenty of directional effects and surround sounds to be heard on this track. While I won't tell you it's as aggressive as something like Spider-Man or Armageddon, this should fit the bill if you own a home theater system. Also included on this disc are English subtitles, as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack in English.
Commentary Track by Director William Friedkin: Friedkin is a very chatty fellow who discusses various details about the film at length. There is a sharp focus on the story and subtext, including a lot of information about Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro's characters. Friedkin is an intelligent filmmaker who is has a firm grasp on the genre he's discussing. Though there are a few moments where Friedkin is silent, though overall this is an above average commentary track that should please fans.
Four Featurettes: These four featurettes take an inside look at the making of the film. "Pursuing The Hunted" takes a look at Tom Brown, a survivalist who is the basis for Tommy Lee Jones' character. Also included are interviews with actors Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, director William Friedkin, and screenwriter Art Monterastelli. "Filming The Hunted" is a look at the production. I liked Friedkin's theory that these types of movies should be lean, mean, and short (amen, brother Friedkin!). "Tracking The Hunted" is a look at the various skills taught by Brown and used by Jones and Del Toro. There is also some interesting information about how to become invisible in the city if you're being pursued (just hunch down four inches and you disappear in a crowd!). Finally, there is "The Cutting Edge," a brief overview of how some of the stunts were achieved.
Deleted Scenes: Six deleted scenes are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Most of these are just character extensions, as when Aaron (Del Toro) and his girlfriend read Bible passages to her daughter. Otherwise, these are fairly inconsequential snippets that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen and a few previews for other Paramount titles.
I enjoyed The Hunted for what it is: a well crafted action thriller. Nothing more, nothing less. Jones and Del Toro both give excellent performances in a film that moves at a very brisk pace. Paramount has produced a disc with fine audio and video presentations, as well as just enough supplements to make fans of the film happy.
The Hunted is worth tracking down.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director William Friedkin
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