BY TRACY CONN
The Hunted is a seriously flawed and violent movie. It begins with a very graphic war scene in which Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro, of Traffic and The Usual Suspects fame) sneaks his way into a mosque to kill a man who has organized the killing of innocent villagers in Kosovo. The Army rewards Aaron with a medal for valor and utilizes his skills in further missions. What they don’t realize is that his battle stress has seriously impaired his judgment. He now believes that everyone is out to kill him and that he must fight for his survival.
When several hunters turn up dead, the FBI calls in L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) to assist in its investigation. Bonham retired from training soldiers in the art of survival and killing and is now working for The Wildlife Fund, in part preventing certain hunting practices. It is completely unclear why the FBI would call in Bonham, since it appears that he used to work for the Army in a training and not an investigative capacity, but this is only one of many inconsistencies that the audience must accept in order to make it through the movie.
Within minutes of examining the crime scene, Bonham has determined that Hallam is the serial killer. What follows is a drawn out, fluctuating chase in which Hallam is the hunted, then the hunter, and finally the hunted. This movie is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of blood and unnecessary close-up views of wounds. At least Jones’ and Del Toro’s knife-fight training for the movie is impressive.
Although the story could have been focused around Hallam’s battle stress and the paranoia produced by it or even Hallam’s potential victimization by the Army, the movie only partially introduces these themes. We never find out for sure whether Hallam is truly paranoid or if he is partially correct in his beliefs that people are out to get him.
There is an additional theme throughout the movie that only adds to its inconsistency and lack of character and plot development. Hallam and Bonham seem to share a disrespect for hunters who use sophisticated weaponry to kill their helpless prey. Both prefer hand-to-hand combat and natural methods of making tools, rather than the snares and guns used by some hunters. However, this only adds to the confusion about Hallam’s mindset. Does he feel paranoid because he thinks everyone is out to get him or because he feels that hunters armed with guns have an unfair advantage over him? If the latter, why is his extensive training in hand-to-hand combat not similarly unfair?
Neither main character is developed well enough for the viewer to really understand his motivations. Connie Nielson’s character, FBI agent Abby Durrell, is also thrown into this confusing mix. She wants to do whatever it takes to find Hallam and prevent him from doing any further harm to the FBI. It seems as if she was meant to symbolize man in a battle between man and nature, but again, not surprisingly, this conflict was not fully developed either.
The Hunted is not the exciting psychological thriller you might expect from the preview. It is difficult to really care about any of the characters in the movie or even to come out on one side of the struggle between man and nature. Although there is a lot of beautiful imagery of forests, waterfalls and snow-covered fields, Hallam and Bonham’s actions do not make the viewer feel that a natural way of combat is any more peaceful or well-ordered than one using guns. Their way of fighting is no less violent or bloody as depicted than that of the Army.
Any of the characters or their points of view could have been sympathetic, but none really were. The Hunted simply lacked any kind of true development other than that of the fight scenes, of course, which if anything were over-developed. If you’re craving an action movie with interesting psychological twists, The Recruit is a much more satisfying and coherent choice.