Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Leslie Stefanson, John Finn, Jose Zuniga, Ron Canada, Mark Pellegrino, Aaron Brounstein, Carrick O'Quinn, Lonny Chapman, Rex Linn, Eddie Velez, Jenna Boyd, Alexander Mackenzie
Written by: David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, Art Monterastelli
Directed by: William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and some language
Running Time: 94
Date: 03/11/2003

The Hunted (2003)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Right Track

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

William Friedkin's 2003 thriller was quickly dismissed as a knockoff of The Fugitive, especially with star Tommy Lee Jones re-creating his relentless pursuer character. But it's actually a tense, intelligent film, highlighting two of Friedkin's pet themes, and it deserves consideration among his best films.

Benicio Del Toro plays Aaron Hallam, a trained Special Forces killer who has gone loose, killing heavily armed hunters deep in the woods. L.T. Bonham (Jones, who had previously worked with Friedkin in Rules of Engagement) is his mentor and trainer, a man with extraordinary tracking and killing skills, but who prefers a life of peace and solitude (he never carries a gun). L.T. is called in to find Aaron, which he does, but then he escapes again, leading to an extended, very intense chase scene.

It's a vivid, visual chase, using the landscape and very little dialogue, but also highlighting the emotional state of both men. Friedkin obviously understands this odd little universe, but also imbues it with a larger struggle of good vs. evil and faith. He begins the film with Johnny Cash's cover version of "Highway 61," especially underlining the lines about God asking Abraham to kill his son. A final coda shows that, although the decision was made, it may or may not have been the right one.

Connie Nielsen plays an F.B.I. agent and young Jenna Boyd appears as Aaron's girlfriend's daughter.

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