In the green woods of Silver Falls, Oregon, Aaron Hallam (del Toro), a trained assassin AWOL from the Special Forces, keeps his own brand of wildlife vigil. After Hallam brutally slays four deer hunters in the area, FBI Special Agent Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen) turns to L.T. Bonham (Jones) as the one man who may be able to stop him.
At first Bonham resists the mission. Snug in retirement, he's closed off to his past, the years he spent in the Special Forces training soldiers to become skilled murderers. But when he realizes that these recent slaying is the work of a man he trained, he feels obligated to stop him. Accepting the assignment under the condition that he works alone, Bonham enters the woods, unarmed—plagued by memories of his best student and riddled with guilt for not responding to Hallam's tortured letters to him as he began to slip over the edge of sanity. Furious as he is with his former mentor for ignoring his pleas for help, Hallam knows that he and Bonham share a tragic bond that is unbreakable. And, even as they go into their final combat against each other, neither can say with certainty who is the hunted and who is the hunter.
Not to be confused with the 1995 movie of the same name.
The Hunted contains examples of:
- A Father to His Men: Played with. Those trained by L.T. do see him as a father figure. He does return the feeling (having kept all of Hallam's letters to him speaking of his difficulties) but finds himself failing the "Father's Dilemma": how to tell your child "I don't know the answer".
- Attack Its Weak Point: A rock knife has a distinctive weak point, it's brittle and prone to break at the handle. Something Hallam takes advantage of in his fight with Bonham.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The details are fictional, but the central premise — a soldier who cracked and needed to be tracked down by the expert who trained him — was confirmed by Tom Brown, Jr., the film's consultant.The story line is fabricated, but parts happened in my life. A guy I trained went bad and I had to track him down and that is the toughest because when you are tracking someone who knows your skills you start playing a deadly chess game.
- Book-Ends: A stanza of "Highway 61 Revisited" is narrated by Johnny Cash at the beginning and at the end of the movie.
- Chekhov's Gun: There are extended sequences where Bonham teaches Hallam how to forge and knap knives. Just before the climactic fight, Hallam forges a steel knife and Bonham cooperates by chipping out a flint one at the same time in preparation for the duel.
- Elites Are More Glamorous: Hallam served with Delta Force, but during a training flash back to L. T.'s class, ALL US elites (Rangers, SEALS, Green Berets, and Marines) show up.
- Grim Up North: L.T. had retired to live in the wilderness up in British Columbia.
- A Handful for an Eye: Hallam uses his own blood to temporarily blind L.T.
- He Knows Too Much: It is implied that the government is after Hallam because he's cracking and has become a threat to national security.
- Meaningful Echo: The same "Highway 61 Revisited" stanza referenced in Book-Ends.
- Noodle Incident: Played straight as Hallam can name all the covert black ops he'd been sent on by codename.
- Private Military Contractor: L.T. wasn't actually in the military, because his father didn't want his son going through the same horrors he had and pulled every string possible to prevent L.T. from serving. L.T. ended up training soldiers how to kill as a contractor, though.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Zig-Zagging Trope.
- To quote Roger Ebert's review:We've seen so many fancy high-tech computer-assisted fight scenes in recent movies that we assume the fighters can fly. They live in a world of gravity-free speed-up. Not so Friedkin's characters. Their fight is gravity-based. Their arms and legs are heavy. Their blows land solidly, with pain on both sides. They gasp and grunt with effort. They can be awkward and desperate. They both know the techniques of hand-to-hand combat, but in real life, it isn't scripted, and you know what? It isn't so easy. We are involved in the immediate, exhausting, draining physical work of fighting.
- On the other hand Tom Brown, Jr., the primary consultant on the film is a bit ashamed of it despite this....the bloody knife fight at the end — no way it would last 4 minutes, any of those wounds are lethal.
- To quote Roger Ebert's review:
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Both leads. Hallam is scarred from his years of in-your-face kills, Bonham is scarred from his years of teaching soldiers to make in-your-face kills.
- Takes One to Kill One: Lampshaded.Bonham: I made him what he is, I can stop him.
- That Didn't Happen: Hallam's work. Lampshaded by Dale Hewitt, an SFOD-D agent when he tells Van Zandt that for all intents and purposes, Hallam doesn't exist.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The take-down method L.T. teaches in the below-mentioned training montage involves: a slash to the brachial artery, a slash to the throat, a stab to the heart, a slash to each femoral artery, followed by a stab to the lung, just to make absolutely sure the guy is dead. They drill this so it becomes as natural as zipping up after using the bathroom.Arm, throat, heart, leg, leg, arm, lung.
- Training Montage: The flashback that details the origins and relationship between L.T. and Hallam.
- What the Hell, Hero?: L.T. Maybe if he wasn't so emotionally detached and helped Hallam when he asked him for his help and advice, Hallam wouldn't have cracked. This is referenced in the final shot of the film, where Bonham throws out dozens of letters from Hallam because he didn't have the answers to the questions he was being asked.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: L.T. suffers motion sickness and is afraid of heights. It does not hamper him in his pursuit of Hallam.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: L.T. and the FBI capture Hallam in the first 20 minutes of the movie; this can't be it, right?