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The Hunted

A troubled, mud-covered veteran evades capture by the cops in the wilderness of Oregon while his former teacher tries to rein him in. No, of course it's not the First Blood 20th anniversary edition, it's The Hunted, the movie Adaptation's Donald Kaufman would have written after the unstoppable success of The Three. A bizarre patchwork of a pile of hits, The Hunted reeks of focus group spewage and studio lameness.

As the picture starts it seems like we're in for something cooler than it seemed in trailer form. Johnny Cash's unmistakable voice booms the story of Abraham a la Highway 61 Revisited. And we are plunged into a black ops mission in Kosovo, where Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) guts some bad guy from stem to stern. We know he's bad because he tells people to kill other people that some random little girl cares about. That's the level of this picture. A little later, Benicio's face looms out of the darkness like Kurtz proving he's troubled, and then we watch him kill some hunters. End character establishment interlude.

We meet up with L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) while, in the least subtle character introduction metaphor since building fences around the baby turtles in Manhunter, he tracks a wounded white wolf through the tundra of British Columbia.

As if this wasn't enough, he fixes up the wolf's wounded paw to show he's a good guy and then beats up the hunter who snared him. It's so heavy-handed and obvious my buddy and I spent the rest of the picture fixing odds on whether or not the wolf would leap out of the helicopter during the climactic fight to repay his debt to the noble hunter. Alas, things in The Hunted aren't nearly that interesting.

The Hunted is so generic that it's like a bare Christmas tree of a parody the night before someone hangs the joke ornaments on it. An old associate tracks down the tracker (irony!) and "just wants him to look" at the slaughtered hunter case.

Of course, the next thing you know, the old retired birddog is hopping out of a chopper, puking his guts out thanks to his fear of heights, and meeting the plucky young female agent. Frankly the only surprise so far is that the plucky young agent isn't played by Samantha Mathis.

Here's where the picture actually threw me a little curve. Tommy Lee finds Benicio right away. They fight for awhile in one of their two hand-to-hand sequences that look like the work of an overachieving, teacher's pet in a stage combat class. The quarry is corralled and while in police custody, he threatens to spill the beans on all the secret Mission: Impossible type stuff he knows about. This is when the men in black load him into one of those prisoner transport vans that exist only to tip over in a daring escape.

Now the real chase is on; from cars to mountain bikes to trolleys, the hunted ignores the cliché and never actually becomes the hunter. Thanks to the idiotic trend of putting the opening credits at the end of the picture I had forgotten that the picture was directed by poor old William Friedkin. So when the chase involving the El-type trolley came up I incorrectly mentally accused the director of stealing from Friedkin's The French Connection, when in fact it was Friedkin himself raiding his own closet for some old slacks to donate to those less fortunate.

I really can't go any farther in running down the plot of this picture, as there really isn't any more, except that Tommy Lee once taught the Army's equivalent of Tough Enough, complete with an Al Snow-like mustache. Every other bad action picture cliché makes at least a cameo, including but not limited to The Frustrated Black Chief, The Unnecessary Close-up of a Beloved Local Street Performer for Local Color, and the immortal "We've lost two men today. Two of the best agents I've ever worked with!"

The only thing really left to mention is after Aaron leaps from a bridge to escape Tommy Lee (a la The Fugitive) he gets far enough ahead of his pursuers to have a chance to stop and forge a knife. Yes, seriously, he forges a knife. In a makeshift forge. Heated by a fire started by rubbing two sticks together. This is not an exaggeration. Oh, and he has even more extra time to set up the old Ewok double log AT-ST crusher trick.

Granted, The Hunted is stupid enough that we never lose track of the plot, although at one point I thought there might be more than one plucky female agent thanks to enough mid-chase hair and costume chases for a Cher concert. Moreso than the genericism and silliness, the picture really starts to sink under the weight of three clumsy, not to mention painfully obvious, metaphors. The white wolf was already mentioned and the story of Abraham is invoked more than a few times, but it all just crumbles when Tommy Lee watches some little kids playing hide and seek in the airport.

To sum things up: The Hunted is a lumbering Frankenstein's monster of a movie. Benicio Del Toro is, as always, good even with no material. Tommy Lee Jones is, as always, tired even with enough rest. March is a month when studios unload their equivalent of day-old and damaged goods, and one should avoid this one unless you're hungry enough for something this stale.

What's It Worth?: $2.99

Jordan Rosa

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