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  Hunted, The Moving Target
Year: 2003
Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Leslie Stefanson, John Finn, José Zúñiga, Ron Canada, Mark Pellegrino, Jenna Boyd, Aaron DeCone, Carrick O'Quinn, Lonny Chapman, Rex Linn, Eddie Velez, Alexander Mackenzie, Johnny Cash
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) was a soldier in Kosovo, he witnessed truly awful scenes as the war atrocities committed there were enough to affect him deeply. So caught up in his work was he that as one of the army's most dedicated fighters, and highly skilled after being trained by one of the best there was, L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), he was still unable to leave his experiences on the battlefield and though he assassinated key figures of the enemy forces, and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions, he eventually went rogue. Now L.T. has been called to catch him...

Director William Friedkin first made a major impact on the movie scene with a chase sequence in The French Connection, so how about a film that was all chase sequence, as The Hunted pretty much was? A definite momentum was generated from the opening that never let up, but such was the aim to be as pure as possible with their plotting, never allowing anything much to distract the characters from the matter in hand, that accusations dogged this work as being somewhat shallow, even two-dimensional, as if all that character development even modern action movies of this sort would include had been left on the cutting room floor.

But to all intents and purposes, what you saw was what you got with The Hunted, and it was never intended to be anything other than a hymn to the survivalist skills of the two lead players in this game of cat and mouse. A deadly game of cat and mouse, naturally, so when L.T. first hears of Aaron's troublemaking, his former pupil has already killed and dismembered four hunters who may well have been expressly sent to kill him off, though we're never too clear on that point. What we are clear on is that Aaron needs to be stopped, although this strikes a balance between respecting him because of how well he applies L.T.'s teachings, and wishing him caught due to his dangerous qualities.

This is at its best when concentrating on the relationship between master and student, or, as the Johnny Cash narration at the beginning has it, quoting the lines about Abraham and his sacrifice from Bob Dylan's Highway 61, between father and son. Of course, the difference there was that God was testing Abraham about killing his offspring, and here there were fewer mixed feelings about whether Aaron should be exterminated by the man who knows his techniques the best. The contemplation of the ambivalence about what L.T. should do according to his conscience and what he is entrusted to to by the state offers more depth, a more archetypal mood, than is noticeable on the surface.

There are other people involved, but often they seem like distractions, and their inclusion constantly threatens to tip events over into the generic rather than the iconic. Connie Nielsen showed up as a cop who hires L.T. to track their quarry, but this is a sop to those who would believe that this was anything but a man's man movie about manly men, and Leslie Stefanson as the ex-girlfriend is similarly superfluous - you didn't get that kind of thing in First Blood. It might have been better if they'd simply filled up their hour and a half with Jones hunting De Toro through the forest, except that when you see the makeshift devices that Aaron uses to give himself the advantage you notice that he could have been replaced in the story with an Ewok without making much of a difference to the overall effect. When this is as focused as it can be on the chase, it's a solid experience; when it gets distracted it loses that intrigue. Music by Brian Tyler.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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William Friedkin  (1935 - )

American writer/director who has struggled throughout his career to escape the legacy of two of his earliest films. Debuted in 1967 with the Sonny & Cher flick Good Times, but it was the gripping French Connection (1971) and phenomenonally popular The Exorcist (1973) that made Friedkin's name and influenced a whole decade of police and horror films. Since then, some of Friedkin's films have been pretty good (Sorcerer, the controversial Cruising, To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Chips, Bug, Killer Joe), but many more (The Guardian, Jade, Rules of Engagement) have shown little of the director's undoubtable talent.

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