Excellent for fans of the genre and thought-provoking for others who'll give it a chance
Aaron Hallam is a special ops guy in the military who has been trained by one of the best--L.T. Bonham. Hallam is routinely ordered to execute strategic figures, and he probably doesn't often know why. Sometimes he has to do his work in the midst of chaos, and sometimes he has to take out people who get in the way. After a brief prologue establishing Hallam's character in the middle of the Bosnian conflict, The Hunted has him back in the States, trying to reintegrate with society. When Hallam can't do it, L.T. is sent for to track him down.
The Hunted is an action/chase film in the tradition of The Fugitive. Thematically, it is much closer to First Blood, but it doesn't have the firepower of that film. On the surface, at least, the plot is an excuse for the chase and encounter scenes between Hallam and Bonham. If you're a fan of action and fighting films, this may be right up your alley, although there is more to be gained than the surface qualities.
Director William Friedkin and the cast are able to create fairly complex characters in Hallam and Bonham through subtle means while the action material is occurring, through well-placed flashbacks, and through two significant, slower scenes that give us a momentary breather. But as much as Del Toro and Jones, the stars of the film are the staging of the chases, the staging of the fights, and the spectacular stunt work. Del Toro and Jones seem to have done more stunt work than is the norm, with Del Toro actually breaking his wrist at one point and halting the production of the film until it healed.
Friedkin and editor Augie Hess deserve a lot of credit, as action scenes like these can frequently become muddled. It's always perfectly clear what one location's relationship is to the next location, what and why characters are doing what they're doing, and just what is occurring in the fight scenes--who is injuring who and how. Friedkin never falls back on fast cuts, blurry shots or speed control tricks to mask these scenes. The Hunted is also effective for retaining more realism than is the norm for contemporary action films--not that I ever subtract points for a lack of realism, but the realism is novel here and in context, works perfectly. Friedkin's choice of Johnny Cash songs for the opening and closing of the film was also inspired, as were the beautiful locations.
Of course, there's also a more political subtext here--namely that we officially train persons to be fearless killers without a conscience and stick them into the middle of crazy situations, often for extended periods of time, then later expect them to be able to "turn it off" and meld back into society with all of its more mundane norms and mores. The film asks who is really responsible for the later behavior of these persons. The Hunter is also admirable for bringing up these issues, but not providing definite, curt answers. On this end it's not just an action film, but a film to provoke serious thought and discussion.
This title contains:
Violence & scariness