Watching The Hunted, the tepid new thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro and directed by William Friedkin, is a lot like discovering Picasso on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk sketching cartoon caricatures of tourists. Corny, listless cartoon caricatures that are indistinguishable from those of any other hand-to-mouth hack.
This is a movie so artless that it not only tugs at the heart to see a talent like Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) working at such a minimal level, but it also calls into question the greatness of his past films. Maybe The Exorcist wasn’t so great after all.
Yes, that’s a harsh assessment. But putting talent to the service of a third-rate First Blood remake (or is it a fifth-rate Fugitive retread?) is the ultimate exercise in mass-marketed mediocrity. Jones sleepwalks through a performance as a wilderness tracker charged with bringing to justice the Army special-ops killer (Del Toro) he helped train. It seems that, after sanctioning a war criminal in Kosovo, the “killing machine” is so riddled with guilt he starts snuffing hunters in the Oregon woods because they don’t kill deer with “reverence” for nature. Finally, a serial killer for the PETA crowd.
What little can be said about The Hunted is that the fight scenes do hold an edge of real danger. These are not spectacular kung fu jousts, but tight, mean little scuffles that are able to carry tension in a way none of the characters or dialogue can.
On balance, however, that’s not enough.