ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  william friedkin

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  94 minutes

RELEASED  -  14 may 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the hunted

the hunted - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the hunted at

buy the dvd from the hunted at

a former fbi deep-woods tracker captures a trained assassin who has made a sport of hunting humans.

benicio del toro broke his wrist while filming a fight scene with tommy lee jones halting production for four months and pushing back the release date.


picture from the hunted

picture from the hunted

picture from the hunted


two out of four possible stars

Previous accolades of the cast and crew of The Hunted notwithstanding, this film could have benefited from an extra reel or so, because the character development is scant at best. There is a small amount of back-story revealed about each of the main characters, but given the short running time of the movie and the fact that much of it is spent on "The Hunt," there's hardly a moment to get into the psyche of the characters. Never mind the fact that some of the stunts strain believability, it's still quite hard to sympathize with the characters fully.

The chase sequences (well, sequence rather, because the entire film is really just one big chase) are quite well done and with beautiful cinematography from director of photography Caleb Deschanel, the film is certainly beautiful enough to look at. Of course, it would be hard to make the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Southwest Canada look ugly or bad. And the constant movement of the characters and the camera ensures that one's interest is held for most of the film, at least in a superficial or visceral way. Intellectually, this film could have been a real stunner, but director William Friedkin placed the entire focus of the film into the action of the chase.

After a short set-up concerning the history of Benicio Del Toro's character, "Aaron Hallom," the film heads straight into an 85 minute chase sequence that, while beautiful and sometimes exciting, strains credibility at times. The lack of downtime might have been a plus for the film if some psychological hoo-ha or even a few words of more interesting dialogue had been thrown into the mix. The best thrillers and chase movies are the ones that let the audience know what's going on with the characters as the movie unfolds, rather than creating a preamble for the back-story or forgetting character development all together.

The Pandora’s box this film creates is that because of the frenzied pace, a viewer might be unable to connect emotionally with the characters, therefore making the excitement of the chase lose its appeal. While this film can immediately be compared to 1993's The Fugitive (not specifically because of Tommy Lee Jones's involvement in both films) in that the chase consumes a large portion of the film, but whereas The Fugitive revealed character temperament and history as the narrative progressed, The Hunted tells the audience very little about its characters.

At one point in the film, Connie Nielson, who plays one of the FBI agents pursuing Aaron Hallom, has reason to cry and shed a few tears. But it's questionable as to whether the audience will fully sympathize with her character, as it is difficult to understand what type of person she is when she's not carrying a badge. The audience only sees her as part of the pursuit; her character can easily be described as flat and lacking the embellishment needed to make her plight a memorable one. A dissertation on her life was not need, only something to give the audience some insight into what was going on in her head.

On the other hand, Tommy Lee Jones's character "L.T.," a deep woods tracker who once taught Aaron Hallom how to kill, has a few moments in the film where his character is dissected and opened up for the audience to analyze. For a few moments, the film becomes more like the psychological thriller it could have been if the director and writer had been patient enough to take some time to let their characters breathe. Some comparisons can be made to the recent film, Insomnia in relation to the wilderness themed chase plot, but while Insomnia wasn't exactly a perfect film, it still included some facts for the audience to digest while the chase was "on."

Sporting such an accomplished and well performing cast, The Hunted could have easily become a gripping thriller if the writers had allowed the characters to come to life and really breathe. But who knows, perhaps the writers did include some character development to feed the audience and the director and editor just chose to boot that element from the film. Regardless of how much character interaction the audience receives throughout the film, the performances still speak very well for the performers. The performances by Jones and Del Toro are sharp and gripping and more time spent with their characters would have been preferable to the strict chase movie to which the audience is treated.

To put it bluntly, both the actors and the audience deserve better than what director William Friedkin has offered in this too short and too shallow film.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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