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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Hunted
The Hunted
Paramount // R // August 12, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 8, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


I suppose that I didn't have particularly high expectations for "The Hunted". Tommy Lee Jones seems to have settled into a comfortable pattern lately, going back-and-forth between chasing fugitives and chasing aliens. "The Hunted" is another one of the former, but it succeeds largely due to the professionalism of everyone involved. Director William Friedkin, famed director of such action/dramas as "The French Connection" and Caleb Deschanel, award-winning cinematographer on such films as "Fly Away Home" combine their talents to make a film that's fast-paced and visually stunning. It's still by no means anything groundbreaking, but it works better than it should have.

The film stars Jones as L.T. Bonham, an army trainer who teaches soldiers how to attack using stealth methods. One of his students was Hallam (Benicio Del Toro), who fought in Kosovo and whose experiences in battle have warped him ("His battle stress has become so deep, it is part of his personality.") Hallam has been hiding out in the woods, attacking hunters. Although he has written to Bonham, who he saw as a father figure, he hasn't heard back - until the two suddenly find themselves confronting one another. Obviously, the film then becomes a cat-and-mouse chase, but an effective one - while not as good as Jones' "The Fugitive", it's probably the best of the many similar pictures he's done since then.

There's something that I noticed early on about "The Hunted". Often in the picture, the mood and tension are set by the ambient sounds or quiet - little of the usual thunderous, intrusive musical score is present. The result is, at least in my opinion, conisderably heightened tension. Combine that with the cinematography - some of the woods have an almost haunting and cold quality to them, made for a lot of suspense even in some quiet scenes.

The performances are good, too. Despite the fact that Tommy Lee Jones has done this role so many times he could probably do it in his sleep, he still approaches this performance with skill, energy and conviction. He creates a distinct character rather than another repeat of similar, prior performances. Del Toro is memorably creepy and complex as Hallam. Supporting performances are acceptable; Connie Neilsen wasn't terribly memorable in "Basic" and she's not here, either; she's just not intense enough.

The film does an unusually good job of presenting character background in a matter of 94 minutes, while still keeping up the relentless pace required of such an action picture. The idea of how soldiers are created, but their mental state is not looked after is explored in some depth. Flashbacks that fill us in on the prior history of the characters are integrated smoothly into the picture.


The DVD

VIDEO: Paramount presents "Hunted" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The studio continues to impress me; many of their recent efforts have cut down on issues like edge enhancement, while also offering exceptional definition. "Hunted" is no different - the picture offers exemplary definition and sharpness, as fine details are consistently visible throughout the presentation. Forest scenes look particularly crisp and well-defined, and also offer very good depth to the image.

No edge enhancement was spotted throughout the presentation, which certainly made for a very pleasing presentation. A few little specks on the print were spotted and a tiny bit of grain was seen, but that's about it - and those things were certainly not much of an issue. Colors, while subdued, were accurately rendered and crisp, with no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid throughout. This is a first-rate effort from the studio.

SOUND: Paramount presents "Hunted" in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's sound designer is Steve Boeddeker (whose work for "Daredevil" recently was remarkable; he was also the sound designer for the Tommy Lee Jones/Samuel L. Jackson picture "Rules of Engagement"). The sound designer's work on "The Hunted" isn't quite as flashy as "Daredevil"'s mix, but it's equally enjoyable; this is absolutely a first-rate action mix, especially in the opening Kosovo sequence. Surrounds continue to be heavily involved throughout the rest of the film, with everything from subtle ambience to more noticable sound effects (traffic, etc.) present in the rear speakers. Overall, all the activity really made for an engaging experience that was never distracting. Audio quality was excellent, as dialogue and sound effects remained crisp and clean.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: This is a commentary from director William Friedkin, who offers a superb discussion of the production of this film, his views on filmmaking and his past efforts. The director does tend to talk about what's currently going on in the story at times, but there's plenty of stretches where he proves to be a very engaging speaker, going into enjoyable detail about research, working with the actors and shooting in the various locations.

Documentaries: Four short documentaries, which appear to be taken from a larger whole, are included here. "Persuing the Hunted" is a piece that looks at how Friedkin became interested in the story in part because of a meeting with a tracker similar to the Tommy Lee Jones character in the picture. Interviews with the director, Jones, Del Toro and others are offered. Interestingly enough, the featurette states that the FBI consultants on the film are not allowed to be paid. "Filming the Hunted" visits the production and takes a look behind-the-scenes, while talking about proceeding in an economic and effective way in terms of both the production work and story. Filming the action and the cinematography are also two subjects profiled here. "Tracking the Hunted" is a featurette about consultant and former tracker Tom Brown. Finally, "The Cutting Edge" looks at filming the action in the out-of-the-way locations.

Also: 6 deleted scenes, theatrical trailer and previews for "The Core", "Indiana Jones Trilogy DVD Set" and "Timeline".

Final Thoughts: "The Hunted" is another chase thriller/drama that is better-than-usual thanks to strong technical credits, solid direction and two fine lead performances. It's definitely worth a look as a rental for fans of the actors. Paramount's DVD offers very good audio/video quality, and a few very good supplements.

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