Published Mar 01, 2003Although The Hunted often resembles one of those "made for TBS" thrillers that tend to star folks like Dean Cain and Rob Estes, it never quite sinks down to the level of pure cheese, due primarily to Benicio Del Toro's completely off the wall, but tremendously entertaining, performance. Like Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau, Del Toro seems to realise that he's in a lame thriller and has evidently decided to just have fun hamming it up.
The film opens in 1999, with the war in Kosovo in full swing. A small group of elite American soldiers, including Aaron Hallam (Del Toro), have been sent in to assassinate a high-ranking Serbian soldier. Though Hallam successfully carries out the mission, his psyche is seemingly damaged beyond repair, and he now lives in the forest offing hapless hunters. Noted tracker L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) is brought in to capture Hallam, who just happens to have been his student years ago.
The most surprising thing about The Hunted is how entertaining it winds up being, despite being filled to the brim with silly clichés and wholly underdeveloped characters. Director William Friedkin keeps the pace brisk and, as expected, makes good use out of real life locations. But no matter how effective the direction or actors may be, it's not enough to compensate for an incredibly poor screenplay. The film is filled with virtually every single action movie cliché (someone actually refers to Hallam as a "killing machine," for crying out loud!), not to mention the paint-by-numbers approach to the plot.
And then, of course, there's Del Toro's hilariously over-the-top performance. Del Toro turns what could've just been another run-of-the-mill psycho into a completely intriguing and utterly fascinating person, to the extent that the movie comes to a dead halt whenever he's off screen. Del Toro's speech about what the world would be like if chickens were the dominant species is worth the price of admission alone.
At best, The Hunted is a decent actioner with some surprisingly effective hand-to-hand combat sequences and a beyond memorable performance from Del Toro. At worst, it's a clichéd amalgam of virtually every action flick over the last 20 years.