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Paramount Studios presents
The Hunted (2003)

"Once you are able to kill mentally, the physical part will be easy. The difficult part, is learning how to turn it off."
- L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: August 26, 2003

Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen
Other Stars: Leslie Stefanson, John Finn
Director: William Friedkin

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:34m:16s
Release Date: August 12, 2003
UPC: 097363397243
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

As I watched The Hunted, I became aware of a potentially excellent film within this subject matter. Alas, The Hunted fails to deliver the emotionally gripping cinematic experience that could have been a result of this story. Director William Friedkin does the best he can with the material, but the compelling themes are severely undermined by poor character development and a distracting lack of focus.

The film opens with a harrowing bloodbath during a special operation in Kosovo. Sergeant Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) fights with an American Special Forces unit ordered to assassinate a Serbian leader responsible for the ruthless slaughtering of Albanians. After he plunges a dagger into his victim's throat, we begin to see the psychological damage that Hallam has endured from this, and many other similar missions.

Hallam arrives home a decorated war hero, but he has been deeply scarred by years of killing for his government. When Hallam is suspected of brutally slaying two hunters in the Pacific Northwest, the FBI enlists the help of L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), the man who trained Hallam in how to be a consummate military assassin. Though Bonham is the professional who taught Hallam how to kill, he himself has seen no combat and, ironically, has never taken another human being's life. Now, Bonham must use his skills to not only track and find Hallam, but, if necessary, slay the man that he has in essence created.

I truly liked the themes presented within this story, particularly the idea of a man who has been trained to kill unquestionably yet given no training on how to cope with the psychological repercussions. Furthermore, the fact that this man must now be hunted and possibly even killed by his very creator or father figure (as a biblical metaphor hints at in an opening narrative) is a fascinating moral paradox. Unfortunately, these ideas are not explored enough to make The Hunted a satisfying viewing experience. Without a strong sense of character development, I found myself rather apathetic when the film reached its predictable outcome.

I would like to have seen more of the background story of these two individuals. Their training together, their interaction with one another, and their father/son relationship are each important moments to witness before they are simply reduced to the hunter and the hunted. While a few of these elements are touched upon, they pass so quickly that one could blink and miss them entirely. Instead, we are given numerous chase scenes and action moments that, while technically thrilling, lack passion. The film ultimately results in a dreary game of cat and mouse, which has been executed far better in other films of the genre.

Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro have proven to be masters of their craft, yet their performances are somewhat dry and uninspired. William Friedkin is a fantastic director with an astute knack for great moviemaking. While his visual style on The Hunted is riveting, the film is void of the atmospheric intensity generated by his best films of the 1970s and 1980s. By keeping the film at a lean 94 minutes, Friedkin has eliminated the chance for what could have been a poignant character study between two emotionally shattered men. I am not sure how in-depth the original screenplay was, but I would like to someday see an extended version of this concept that corrects this oversight.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced, The Hunted is one incredible image transfer. The entire aesthetic is completely smooth, appearing almost like high-definition. The level of detail is remarkable, right down to the visible pores on the actors' faces. As edge enhancement has become so prevalent on recent transfers, it is truly a wondrous event to witness a picture that contains virtually none of this transfer-related atrocity. While sometimes slightly discernable, it never proves distracting. Though the color scheme for the picture shifts on occasion, this appears to be an intentional device used to convey various moods. Overall, this is a top-notch transfer with no deficiencies to distract from the dazzling visuals.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is demo-worthy material. The opening Kosovo sequence in particular is a fantastic display of the 5.1 format, featuring a sonic assault from all angles. Deep bass from the explosions is gut-wrenchingly powerful yet clean, while crackling gunfire encircles the viewer thanks to aggressive split surrounds. The fantastic dynamic range of the soundtrack also helps to heighten the visceral impact of these scenes. The rest of the film displays admirable sound design as well. Even during quiescent moments, the sense of spacious imaging is fully realized, with subtle noises emanating from all around the listening area. Dialogue is always intelligible and clean, however, spoken words often possesses somewhat of an odd tonal quality. The ADR processing sounds unusually awkward, as if someone went slightly haywire with post-equalization. Other than this minor gripe, this is an incredibly effective soundtrack that further proves just how compelling a multi-channel soundtrack can be.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Timeline, The Core, The Adventures of Indiana Jones
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director William Friedkin
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:54m:38s

Extras Review: The first of a small collection of special features is the feature-length commentary with director William Friedkin. Friedkin's fascinating discussion begins with the conceptualization of the film, and moves on to discuss just about everything involved with this production. He delivers loads of interesting information that truly enhance the quality of viewing the film. This is one of the more entertaining commentaries I have listened to in a while.

Next, is a behind-the-scenes documentary broken into the following four featurettes: Pursuing The Hunted, Filming The Hunted, Tracking The Hunted, and The Cutting Edge. While somewhat brief, each section covers a wide array of fascinating aspects of the production. This documentary also ranks as a standout amongst so many of the typically dreary featurettes I have seen lately.

There are six deleted scenes, all presented in anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 sound. Each of these scenes is either irrelevant or too brief to make a significant impact, and they are all a welcome omission from the finished film. When I stated that I wanted to see a longer version of The Hunted, these scenes are not what I had in mind.

Finishing up the short collection of special features is the theatrical trailer, presented in nonanamorphic widescreen with 5.1 sound. The deftly edited trailer admirably sets the tone of the film.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The Hunted is a noble effort, but the story never reaches its potential. I was, however, dazzled by the audio and video transfers as well as Friedkin's insightful audio commentary. While not worthy of a purchase, The Hunted will make a good rental.


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