Some flicks you just have to wonder – what was the point to all that? “The Hunted” is one of those movies. This “Rambo”/”Fugitive” clone never really delves into subplots and aside from its three major characters, all the other roles are single scene appearances at best.
At 94 minutes its about as ‘cut down to the bone’ style thriller as your gonna get and sadly that’s the film’s greatest weakness – a real pity as the soon to open “Phone Booth” uses that element to its strength. ‘Hunted’ is all supposed to be about one guy in a race to stop his protege whose taken his teachings a little too seriously and become a sociopath that’s deftly handy with a dagger.
The catch is with such a short running time and some obvious attempts to “keep it real”, the characters are never given anytime to develop – consequently Jones comes off even more paper thin than his roles in the likes of “Double Jeopardy” whilst Del Toro is just DiCaprio in the last act of “The Beach” and about fifteen years older.
The strongest element is of course Director William Friedkin. The man still has a great touch with the camera and knows how to both shoot cinematically and work the action scenes to great effect. There’s some nifty chase scenes (including a tense one on a bridge), a rather visually stunning opening in Sarajevo, an excellent ‘flashback training’ scene, and a rather brutal mano-e-mano fight against stunning Oregon forest/waterfall backdrops.
However the visual look and solid actors can’t help a very underwritten story. Even greats like these two, and the always impressive Connie Nielsen in an underwritten female role (which feels like its been added purely to ensure there’s one female character in there), can’t squeeze much out of such thin material. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the score is solid and the camerawork impressive.
Right from the start one wonders why does Del Toro start killing again? More importantly though the relationship between the mentor and protege (outside of the flashback sequence) is never really explored – they’re more than happy to go right into trying to stop/kill each other but as an audience it feels like we’re missing a key part of the story.
A subplot about Del Toro knowing a woman and her daughter comes and goes with no explanation, likewise Government agents appear halfway through and then vanish simply to basically restart the movie and play the first half all over again (albeit in more elaborate action sequences). Despite its great look and useful sense of tension and atmosphere, the lack of any sense of a cohesive story ultimately turns this into a beautiful but severely wounded animal – one which needs to be put down.