The Hunted
starring Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones
2 1/2 stars

review by Stephen Notley

The US Army, bless 'em, makes a lot of people into killing machines, people like Benicio Del Toro. But sometimes, dammit, Benicio Del Toro goes awry and starts knifing up innocent deer hunters in Oregon. When that happens, we all know there's only one man who can bring him in: *The dude who trained him to be a totally ass-slicing knife-killer guy in the first place! *

In this case, that's Tommy Lee Jones, here looking grizzled and bearded but basically doing the same running-around-and-chasing people gig we're used to from The Fugitive and U.S. Marshalls, with a hearty dose of the knife-fighting skills we saw in Under Seige. The twist is that here he's not a cop; he's more of a trapper/tracker type, the kind of guy who lives in a snowbound cabin and frees wolves from snares in his retirement from training US soldiers to skin, gut, and fillet a man in six strokes. He doesn't bark orders like he did in the Fugitive; instead he quietly tags along as the FBI guys pursue Benicio and are knifed.

So: Benicio loses it after some unhapy knifing in Serbia and heads to Oregon for some hunter-knifing; Jones gets called in to try to find him before he coldly and expertly knifes anybody else. 

Perhaps you get the idea there's a lot of knifing in this movie. Oh yes. Knifing is why this movie is. Sure, the Army cranks out a lot of deadly people, but according to The Hunted, there's no Navy SEAL or ninja who can cut a man up like a super-deadly knife guy. We see flashbacks of Jones training Benicio, drilling him, turning him into a machine who can kill a man just by stabbing him in the throat, stomach, groin, thigh, back, chest and throat again.  Benicio is such a hardcore knifist he stops in the middle of a big manhunt, builds a fire, and hand-forges a new knife out of scrap metal. 

And it wouldn't be a knife movie if it didn't have lots of shots of *whick!* and *zik!* and knives slicing across hands and the bit where one guy is pushing down on the knife as hard as he can and the other guy is barely holding it away from his throat...  and, of course, lots of slippery drippery blood streaming out of freshly-opened knife wounds.

Of course, there's more to the film than just knifing. There's also chasing (or Hunting, if you will). It makes sense; the director is William Friedkin, who gave us one of the all-time classic chases in The French Connection. While there's plenty of chasing in The Hunted, and some slick moments, there's nothing classic. Still, there's a woods chase and a car chase and a street chase and a bridge chase and a river chase, so if pursuit is your thing, this movie's full of it.

Between knifing and chasing, that's pretty much the whole deal. In all the track, track track, chase chase chase, knife knife knife, there doesn't seem to be any room for character. It's odd to see a young, acclaimed, Academy Award (tm)-winning actor playing such a blank role. Sometimes he comes off like Rambo in First Blood, other times he's more like the Predator, but most times he's just motionless,waiting, staring with his half-lidded eyes before jumping up to stab somebody. We don't really know why Benicio goes nuts other than, well, he's an army-trained murder machine and that's what they do.

In a way it's refreshing to see a movie not bothering with all the psuedo-deep psychopolitical underpinnings of the hunter/hunted, teacher/student thing in favor of squeezing in another bit where somebody gets their throat slit. On the other hand, it makes it a little tough to care.