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The Hunted


Genre: The Fugitive kind

Opens: Now playing

Tag line: "Some men must be found."

What the tag line should be: "Some films should be lost."

The Pitch: A stressed-out U.S.-trained assassin (Benicio Del Toro) gives hunters a lethal taste of their own medicine until his old mentor (Tommy Lee Jones) trails him through Portland, Ore., and the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

Body count: The blood budget must have been enormous. Dozens of innocents get massacred in a prologue set in Kosovo. Then we see one death by gunshot, one by a government-issue suicide inhaler and about a half-dozen by handmade knives.

Money shots: Del Toro scurries down a wall Spiderman-style in the Kosovo prologue. Del Toro and Jones' arduous, painful bouts of hand-to-hand combat. Before their final showdown, the two men, separately, pause to make fresh blades out of rocks and scrap metal. But wouldn't it be quicker just to buy some?

Hit single: Like Jehovah himself, Johnny Cash intones the first verse of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" -- "God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son'" -- as the film begins. It's all downhill from there.

Comic relief: None, but it's kind of funny when Jones, no spring chicken, chases an elevated train and somehow catches up to it. And when he pops his head up through a manhole on a busy street, it's like a Bugs Bunny cartoon: "Be vewy quiet. I'm hunting Dew Towo."

Pop references: That train may be director William Friedkin's way of footnoting his chase in The French Connection. Early close-ups surround Del Toro's sooty face with shadow, a la that other renowned mumbler, Marlon Brando, in Apocalypse Now.

Contemporary subtext: With the U.S. on the verge of sending troops overseas, The Hunted suggests they'll return as bloodthirsty animal rights activists. Even the Rambo movies were more sympathetic to veterans.

The Twist: Were pages missing from the script? We prepare for a third-act plot point -- like Del Toro having the goods on some kind of government/military conspiracy -- but The Hunted's twist is that there is no twist, just dogged pursuit.

The Bottom Line: Jones gives an unexpectedly vulnerable performance, but his presence and the would-be "big" stunts only make us pine for The Fugitive. There's just too much tracking, too little character development, and too many knife wounds. Some films cut to the chase, but The Hunted chases to the cuts.

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