The Hunted is a 2003 American action thriller film directed by William Friedkin and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro. Brian Tyler composed the film's score.
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Aaron Hallam (Benicio del Toro), a former United States clandestine operator, is introduced initially as the focus of the story. He is shown to have performed extraordinarily courageous and savage tasks in the course of government service. These actions leave the sensitive and intelligent Hallam conflicted and it is portrayed that he was either set up, or that the government was at some point later dissatisfied with the results of his further assignments.
In the wilderness of Silver Falls State Park, Oregon, a man is seen being stalked seemingly by 2 hunters. By the type of advanced optics on their weapons and their dialog they are clearly not ordinary hunters. They are hunting Hallam who is at that point hiding in the wilderness. Hallam dispatches the 2 using only his knife, and proceeds to ritualistically clean and butcher the bodies in the manner of a hunter.
L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), a civilian instructor of military survival and combat training, is approached and asked to help apprehend Hallam, who was one of his former students. According to the authorities, the younger man has gone renegade after suffering severe battle stress from his time in the Kosovo War.
Bonham agrees and is assisted in the manhunt by an FBI task force, led by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen). It is Bonham himself who locates Hallam after tracking him and finding his personal effects within a hollow tree trunk deep in the woods. After a blistering bout of hand to hand fighting in which the much older Bonham is virtually knocked unconscious, Hallam is captured by the arriving FBI agents. During his interrogation, Hallam shows himself endowed with a passion for wildlife preservation, much like his mentor Bonham. He mentions military operations in which he had participated and Bonham cuts him off for his own safety. The FBI is unsure of how to treat their would-be murder suspect and Hallam is soon in the custody of his former Special Forces colleagues, now dressed in low-key matching government issue trench coats.
While being transported by his former associates in the back of a nondescript-looking panel truck, Hallam manages to kill all the operatives and escape. Alerted to the incident, Bonham and the FBI team arrive at the scene and the chase begins again. The team tracks Hallam across the city and back into the wilderness but Hallam consistently evades them. Realizing that the FBI's tactics aren't working, Bonham strikes out on his own and the search quickly becomes a personal contest between teacher and student, finally culminating in another desperate battle amongst the waterfalls of a national forest.
After one of the most realistic and vicious portrayals of knife fighting in modern cinema - Bonham kills his own student with a knife wound to the center torso. The FBI arrives too late, and Bonham walks away without saying a word. Bonham returns to British Columbia, where he starts to burn letters that were sent to him from Hallam. Earlier it was shown that Hallam had written Bonham multiple letters expressing the hopes and concerns of his life, and his conflicted nature over continuing to function as a government assassin. It is clear that Hallam regarded the older Bonham as a father figure. It is left to the audience to wonder why there was not more civil interaction between the 2 men. One possible explanation is that Bonham had trained so many men to perform as efficient killers, who then went on to lead high-stress lives in military combat roles that the danger of forming personal relationships outside or beyond the teacher/student role was simply unacceptable to Bonham.
- Tommy Lee Jones as L.T. Bonham
- Benicio del Toro as Aaron Hallam
- Connie Nielsen as Abby Durrell
- Leslie Stefanson as Irene Kravitz
- John Finn as Ted Chenoweth
- JosÃ© ZÃºÃ±iga as Bobby Moret
- Ron Canada as Harry Van Zandt
- Mark Pellegrino as Dale Hewitt
- Jenna Boyd as Loretta Kravitz
- Aaron DeCone as Stokes (as Aaron Brounstein)
- Carrick O'Quinn as Kohler
- Lonny Chapman as Zander
- Rex Linn as Powell
- Eddie Velez as Richards
- Alexander MacKenzie as Sheriff
- Bobby Preston as Boy at Airport
- Johnny Cash as the Narrator (uncredited)
The film was partially filmed in and around Portland, Oregon and Silver Falls State Park. Portland scenes were filmed in Oxbow Park, the South Park Blocks, and Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The technical adviser for the film was Tom Brown, Jr., an American outdoorsman and wilderness survival expert. The story is partially inspired by a real-life incident involving Brown, who was asked to track down a former pupil and Special Forces sergeant who had evaded capture by authorities. This story is told in Tom's book, Case Files Of The Tracker.
The unusually realistic, brutal hand to hand combat and knife fighting in the film featured Filipino Martial Arts. Thomas Kier and Rafael Kayanan of Sayoc Kali were brought in by Benicio del Toro. They were credited as knife fight choreographers for the film.
The box office for the film was less than its reported production budget of $55 million. The Hunted opened on March 14, 2003 at #3 in 2,516 theaters across North America and grossed $13.48 million during its opening weekend. It went on to gross $34,244,097 in North America and $11,252,437 internationally markets for a worldwide total of $45,496,534.
The overall critical reaction to the movie was negative. It scored a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 146 reviews. Many reviewers noted striking similarities to First Blood. Rolling Stone called it "Just a Rambo rehash," while Rex Reed of the New York Observer called it a "Ludicrous, plotless, ho-hum tale of lurid confrontation." The UK magazine, Total Film said the film was "scarcely exciting to watch."
However, the film also received praise from other high profile critics, particularly for the fact it kept the special effects and stunts restrained. For example, Roger Ebert said, "We've seen so many fancy high-tech computer-assisted fight scenes in recent movies that we assume the fighters can fly. They live in a world of gravity-free speed-up. Not so with Friedkin's characters." He reviewed the film on his own site and scored it 3 and 1/2 stars out of four. Time Out London was also positive saying, "Friedkin's lean, mean thriller shows itself more interested in process than context, subtlety and character development pared away in favour of headlong momentum and crunching set pieces."
- Official site
- The Hunted at the Internet Movie Database
- The Hunted at AllMovie
- The Hunted at the TCM Movie Database
- The Hunted at Box Office Mojo