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Film / The Hunted (2003)

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The Hunted is a 2003 action thriller film directed by William Friedkin, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro.

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".
  • Affably Evil: Hallam genuinely likes Bonham.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: It's hard not to pity Hallam when he finally dies. One can't help but wonder if he'd have been different if Bonham had listened to him, or whether he was actually right that the hunters he killed were assassins sent after him.
  • Artistic License – Physics: you can't get steel red hot by sticking it in a campfire. To forge steel you need a, well, forge. The training montage actually shows one.
  • 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.
  • Beard of Sorrow: L.T. has a scruffy grey beard.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bonham taught Hallam to track and kill, and both of them put their skills to good use throughout the film.
  • 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.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Hallam. He just can't readjust to civilian life after the horrible things he's seen, even though he'd really like to settle down with his girlfriend.
  • Ineffectual Loner: Bonham. He's a retired recluse at the beginning of the movie.
  • Knife Fight: The final duel between L.T. and Hallam is a particularly bloody knife fight.
  • Large Ham: Hallam. Benicio del Toro is clearly enjoying his role, delivering every line in a creepy monotone.
  • 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.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Durrell appeared disappointed that Bonham manages to kill Hallam first before they could arrest him after having killed her close colleagues and she didn't get to avenge them herself.
  • 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.
  • Retired Badass: L.T. has long since stopped training soldiers by the time the film begins. Naturally, Hallam's rampage forces him out of retirement.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Both Hallam and Bonham. Hallam is stealthy enough to kill two armed men before they even see him coming, and Bonham is more skilled than that.
  • 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.
  • Smug Snake: Dale Hewitt.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dale Hewitt, the Smug Snake leader of the group of soldiers sent to take care of Hallam, all get a bit too comfortable around him. When Dale moves to poison Hallam, he just overpowers and kills everyone
    Hallam: Is it painless Dale?
  • Training Montage: The flashback that details the origins and relationship between L.T. and Hallam.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Rather than showing gratitude towards Bonham for killing Hallam, Durrell appears to be seething angered by the fact she did not get to avenge her colleagues' deaths due to Bonham beating her to it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: The people sent to take care of Hallam led by Dale goes into a "The Reason You Suck" Speech instead of just killing him outright with the poison he was going to use.
  • 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?