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Tommy Lee Jones must be a pretty athletic chap. At 57 he’s certainly no spring chicken and yet over the period of ten short years he has successfully chased after the likes of Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, Wesley Snipes in U.S. Marshals and of course the rather charming Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy. When I heard of a new chase thriller starring Mr Jones alongside The Usual Suspects’ Benicio Del Toro I can’t say I was holding out a great deal of hope. I was expecting a far-fetched, run of the mill chase between a troubled cop and a wrongly convicted felon. So how right was I? It’s time to find out…

Hunted, The
Tommy Lee Jones plays L.T. Bonham, a retired tracker and former warfare instructor for the military. His past isn’t something that he’s particularly proud of now, and he goes to great lengths to avoid any potential ramifications of his violent past. Unfortunately for Bonham, the past is about to catch up with him, and before long he is called upon by the FBI to assist in a murder investigation. A party of game hunters have been brutally murdered in the Pacific Northwest and it is quickly becoming apparent that the prime suspect is one of the Special Forces assassins that Bonham trained personally. This assassin gone renegade is Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), a killing machine haunted by the images he was subjected to in Kosovo. Hallam is a self-sufficient killer, able to survive with little to no resources in even the harshest of conditions. Now the seasoned teacher must engage his most talented pupil in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, with a playing field that moves from Oregon’s rural wilderness to the concrete jungle of the city…

So is this just another run of the mill chase movie? Thankfully, no it isn’t. Although the film does conform to some of the chase movie stereotypes, it manages to bring a reasonably fresh take to the tired formula. The film is of course directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist) and he’s certainly no stranger to riveting action sequences and violence. Naturally, The Hunted has a fair dose of both of those, although neither imposes particularly upon the all important character development. William Friedkin is a director that prides himself in his gritty realism and as such he doesn’t shy away from graphic violence when necessary. The Hunted is no exception and several scenes display a quite brutal portrayal of knife fighting in the raw. If you are remotely squeamish then this is another film that I’d advise you to avoid - the opening fifteen minutes or so are particularly graphic. Despite the bloody nature of the onscreen violence; the fights themselves are really rather enjoyable to watch. Each of the fights is superbly choreographed and leaves you in no doubt that the actors could genuinely kill you with little to no trouble!

Hunted, The
The performances from the leads are mixed. For starters, we have Tommy Lee Jones as L.T. Bonham. We all know that Tommy Lee Jones mastered this kind of role quite some time ago, and as such he could probably play the role of L.T. Bonham in his sleep. There was some debate when the film came out that he actually was asleep but I couldn’t disagree more with that opinion. On the whole I found his performance to be a pretty deep, soulful affair - something that I haven’t seen from him in quite a while. His reluctance to try and hunt down his student is genuinely quite touching, as he feels partly responsible for the trouble that Hallam is now in. The performance from Benicio Del Toro is a little more questionable. Although he has a pretty menacing screen presence throughout, I did think that his acting was a little wooden on several occasions. One particularly cringe-worthy scene has Del Toro talking to his onscreen daughter about animal tracks in his garden. The delivery of the dialogue was incredibly bland and I found myself chuckling away, which is never a good sign in a film such as this! This could of course be down to the dialogue more than anything but something didn’t quite click with Benicio in the role. The only other noteworthy performance comes from Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen. I’ve never been much of a fan of her as an actress and unfortunately she has done very little to redeem herself here. She fails to convince as an FBI agent on nearly every level and serves little to no purpose in the movie.  

Although The Hunted is a pretty entertaining ride for the most part, the realms of believability are breached on several occasions. For starters the action sequences do go a little too far at times. The first scene that sticks in my mind is the one in which Tommy Lee Jones single handily chases down a train. At this stage of the movie he had already been running for a good fifteen minutes and yet he still has enough energy to catch up with a train going a good 30 or 40mph. Silly. Another questionable part of the movie comes towards the end when both Bonham and Hallam pitch camp and make various items of weaponry. When the FBI is hot on the heels, is it really a good idea to start fires and mould a knife? I think not. Finally, we have the knife fights. Although I did enjoy them for the most part, one particular climactic fight becomes a pretty laughable affair. The sequence lasts for a good few minutes and sees the two combatants inflict ridiculous amounts of damage on each other. One of the featurettes on the DVD admits that most knife fights would only last a few seconds and yet this one drags on for several minutes with blood flying here, there and, everywhere! Still, I can’t deny that it’s pretty entertaining to watch and as such I’d recommend The Hunted for a rental at least.

Hunted, The
I’ve been impressed with the quality of transfers that Paramount have been putting out lately and The Hunted is no exception. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the print is completely free of intruding halos and other picture blemishes. The movie takes place in a variety of environmental conditions and yet the transfer copes with each of these admirably. Whether the scene takes place in a dimly lit sewer, or bright forest, the colours and contrast remain spot on throughout. You’ll be pleased to know that I failed to notice any signs of edge enhancement either. Nice.

The Hunted carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it performs the job like a true professional. Right from the start we are thrown into the horrific sights and sounds of war torn Kosovo, and the track copes with all of the explosions and gunfire perfectly. The track makes use of the entire soundstage, whether it be discrete gunfire from the rear speakers or a range of other atmospheric effects enveloping you. Another scene that stands out in my mind is Hallam’s encounter with the two hunters. His voice literally springs around from speaker to speaker, and it genuinely had me freaking out on several occasions! The only minor concern I had with the soundtrack was that at times the voices of the actors seemed a little muffled. Nothing too distracting though and on the whole this is another top-notch soundtrack.

Hunted, The
Although this is only a one-disc release, Paramount has still managed to cram a pretty decent selection of extra material on to it. Kicking things off is an audio commentary with the director William Friedkin. He’s a pretty experienced director, so I was looking forward to hearing some pretty in-depth opinions on his latest film. Unfortunately they never really materialised. Instead, Friedkin spends most of the commentary duration reminiscing on a number of his past directorial projects. Although I’m sure this would be very interesting to a number of people, I would have personally preferred a scene specific commentary. As such, not a great deal is learnt about the production itself. Disappointing.

Next we have a selection of four documentaries, although documentaries is probably too strong a word considering the runtimes for each of them. The first of these ‘documentaries’ is entitled Pursuing The Hunted and it runs to a little over eight minutes in total. This featurette looks at how the film was originally conceived and features interviews with director William Friekdin, technical advisor Tom Brown and cast members Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro. Interestingly enough we learn that the character of L.T. Bonham is largely based upon Tom Brown himself. The next featurette is called Filming The Hunted and surprisingly enough looks at how the movie was filmed. We hear Friedkin’s insistence that chase thrillers should be short and sweet and he also discusses how he gave the movie a documentary feel. Pretty interesting on the whole and it runs to just over nine minutes in total. Next comes Tracking The Hunted and this one looks at the rather important tracking aspect of the film. This feature takes place exclusively with tracker and adviser Tom Brown and we learn how he trained the actors in survival techniques. It also looks at some of the weapons used in the film, which are apparently one hundred percent accurate and used by trackers such as himself. This makes for some pretty captivating viewing, although it only runs for around four minutes, which is a little pathetic. The final featurette is entitled The Cutting Edge and it runs to just over eight minutes in its entirety. I’ve already talked about the impressive nature of the fight scenes, and this feature analyses them in detail. One quote in particular sticks in my mind ‘a knife fight between two skilled fighters is a nasty thing where one guy goes to the cemetery and one guy goes to the hospital’. Having watched the film, I couldn't agree more!

Completing the package are the deleted scenes and a selection of trailers. The deleted scenes section comprises a total of six deleted scenes, all presented in anamorphic widescreen. First impressions are that the scenes were removed at the last minute as they are in a pretty finished state; many of which even come complete with a musical score! Unfortunately though the majority of the scenes are pretty forgettable, however the first of them, which is entitled FBI Sting Section makes for some pretty captivating viewing as a few unknown baddies get whacked. We also have another unlikely scene in which a rock trap almost squashes poor old Tommy Lee Jones. Completing the package are trailers for The Hunted, Timeline, The Core and the much-anticipated Indiana Jones Trilogy DVD release. All of these are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.

Hunted, The
The Hunted is a good, if pretty forgettable action romp. Tommy Lee Jones turns in another solid performance although I’m beginning to think that he might as well get a job as a bounty hunter! Where does all that energy come from?! The package that Paramount has put together is also pretty solid on the whole with a pretty impeccable transfer and a reasonably beefy soundtrack. The extra material doesn’t let the side down either as a fair amount of supplemental has been provided with the highlights being the knife fighting featurettes and the surprisingly polished deleted scenes. The Hunted won’t appeal to everyone, the violence is extreme at times and the story isn’t exactly brain surgery. Still, it provides an hour and a half of reasonably decent entertainment, so who am I to complain?