We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Sometimes being an assassin can just mess up a guy’s head. Take the case of Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro). He’s introduced in the midst of a hellish Kosovo massacre, where he slinks into a besmirched mosque to terminate a murderous Serbian mastermind. It’s a good deed, the only kind of action U.S. military personnel undertake in faux-political movies like this. (See last week’s Tears of the Sun.) But once he’s back home, Aaron develops serious post-traumatic stress disorder. He starts mistaking deer hunters for agents sent to kill him and, therefore, guts them. It’s time to summon the man who trained Aaron, L.T. Bonham (Tommy Lee Jones), who’s not so burdened by his erstwhile career. In fact, L.T. is nothing short of the St. Francis of Assisi of former assassin-school instructors, first seen removing a snare from the bloody leg of a remarkably docile white wolf. L.T. is a superskilled tracker, of course, but he doesn’t track humans anymorethough he will make an exception for Aaron: He wants to find his old student before overeager FBI agent Abby Durrell (Connie Neilsen) does. The Hunted is essentially a series of action set pieces, with buckets of blood but very little connective tissue; it’s got even less downtime than Cradle 2 the Grave. The chase and battle scenes, which lead from an Oregon forest to downtown Portland and then to a rushing river, are well-photographed (by veteran Caleb Deschanel, no less) and well-choreographed, but whenever the movie gets an idea in its ugly little head, things become laughable. Director William Friedkin, who took the notion of mirror-image good and evil to ludicrous lengths in Cruising and To Live and Die in L.A., here riffs on the faux-biblical conceit that L.T. is Abraham and Aaron is Isaacwhich is about as convincing as Del Toro’s affected performance. If only L.T. had taught Aaron to keep his mouth shutand Johnny Cash, the soundtrack’s oracular voice, had held his tongue, too. Mark Jenkins