Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Hunted

Director William Friedkin is a master of chase scenes. His iconic car chase in The French Connection is often pointed to as the epitome of such a chase. His quickly forgotten 2003 film The Hunted is essentially a 90 minute chase scene, as we follow former Army trainer L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones) tracking down one of his trainees, Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), who's gone off the rails and begun murdering local deer hunters. It's pretty much a rip off of the first Rambo movie, First Blood, but plot is not really the focus or forte of action movies, so what does that matter?

The training that LT did in the Army was as a contractor teaching survival, stealth, hand-to-hand combat, and efficiency in killing. In a flashback, he tells his soldiers he'll teach them until killing and survival become a reflex, and that the hardest part of all will be to turn it off. Hallam was never able to turn it off, and after experiencing some serious post traumatic stress from his assassination missions during Kosovo, he goes rogue. When LT is sent to go get him, he simply starts wandering out in the woods "If I'm not back in 2 days, it'll mean I'm dead" he calls back to the officers in charge of the hunt. He chases Hallam through the woods, later through the city of Portland, then ultimately back into the wilderness again.

This is an action movie for, I think, both people who don't like action movies and for action movie fanatics. These guys aren't superheroes. They punch and kick and stab and everything has weight to it. Fights are tiring, punching hurts your hand almost as much as it hurts the other guys face. They sweat, they wear down, the older Bonham quicker than the younger Hallam, which Hallam uses to his advantage often. This is like a realistic action movie, though just as ridiculous in many areas as your average action flick. We get some back story, but nothing in the way of character development really. This movie is pared down to the absolute essentials. We know roughly what these guys can do, and why they're chasing, and then we get down to the chase. That's it. But to me there's an almost poetry to the action because it's less complex, from a character standpoint. But I also think that's why Friedkin cast the actors he did, Del Toro able to evoke inner turmoil effortlessly, and Jones being so rough and weathered and giving that "lived in" kinda feel to his characters. He's the most believable of actors because of those innate qualities, and that's exactly what this movie needed.

Gorgeously shot by ace cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (father of actresses Emily and Zooey), this is the gritty, sweaty, mano a mano, bad ass type of action movie we don't get very often. Almost no gun play (Bonham says he doesn't like guns, I guess they're too loud, hard to stay in the shadows with a smoking gun), but a lot of intense hand fighting, sometimes with knives. Somehow forgotten and largely dismissed critically and commercially upon its release, I stumbled upon it just looking for a mindless action movie. The Hunted isn't mindless, it's just got its mind focused on a couple of things, namely action. It's one of my new favorites of the genre.

1 comment:

kathy said...

Tommy Lee Jones is always a favorite, so I need to see this film.