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Kosovo looks like the pit of hell to Aaron Hallam. Flames feast on ruined buildings and thick gouts of fetid smoke flood the air as marauding Serbs casually mow down scores of defenseless Albanians with automatic weapons. But none of the infernal scenery is Aaron’s concern, save one building. As part of an American Special Forces group, it’s his job to sneak into that building and assassinate the Serbian military commander stationed therein. Because he is a professional, he does so with ease (and with a very sharp blade). But while the commander quickly dies that night, in Aaron's mind the events that comprise it live on forever. They color his every waking moment and cloud most of his sleeping ones. He dreams about civilians being executed with Nazi-like efficiency. He sees the tormented visage of the Serbian commander as the knife plunges into his throat. And shadowy, relentless figures stalk him ceaselessly. He begins writing frantic letters, seeking help from his tutor in death, L.T. Bonham. Then one day the letters stop and Aaron simply disappears.
When hunters from Oregon and Washington begin dying, authorities find them in the woods dressed and quartered as one would a deer. L.T. recognizes Aaron’s lethal skills at work; skills that he had taught him. Has his student become fatally unhinged? In this true story based on the life of survivalist Tom Brown Jr., the teacher must find his pupil before more men perish.
positive elements: Aaron regrets that humanity seems to have lost respect for nature. L.T. becomes distraught that the tools of warfare he taught Aaron are being abused outside of a military context. When L.T. confronts Aaron he tells him he must pay for his murderous crimes.
spiritual content: The story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac surfaces three times, once through a Bible that’s been bookmarked at Genesis 22 and twice through snippets of the Bob Dylan song "Highway 61 Revisited" ("God said to Abraham, Kill me a son/Abe says, Man, you must be puttin’ me on"). Johnny Cash’s "The Man Comes Around" plays underneath the credits and is packed with Biblical allusions.
sexual content: The Serbian commander makes an obscene sexual slur before meeting his maker.
violent content: The Hunted absolutely drowns in brutality and gore. When the weapons come out (most notably knives), you can be sure it won’t be long until someone is bleeding. Limbs are pierced, stomachs slashed and chests stabbed. Wounds spurt, gush and drip copiously. One character even throws his own blood in another’s face to blind him. Much of the film’s introduction is taken up with scenes of wholesale massacre. Aaron’s assassination of the Serbian commander is intense and explicit (parts of it are replayed during Aaron’s tormented flashbacks). Although the hunters are murdered off-screen, audiences see Aaron slice a man’s face and snag his leg in a snare. Pictures of the murders’ aftermath show severed limbs and heads. L.T. and Aaron battle mano a mano multiple times with fists, sticks and blades. Aaron takes a man hostage by holding a knife to his throat. Two FBI agents are savagely stabbed to death. A man is shot with a tranquilizer dart. A car driver gets shot in the head, causing his car to crash. While trying to escape from police, Aaron’s intentionally reckless driving turns a crowded intersection into a demolition derby. A man dies from inhaling a lethal poison. Another gets caught in an animal trap that leaves him dangling over a raging river.
crude or profane language: About half-a-dozen uses each of the f- and s-word (two of the f-words are subtitled). Milder profanities are used three or four times. God and Jesus’ names are abused. One character makes an obscene gesture.
drug and alcohol content: Serbian soldiers puff on cigarettes, as do Portland, Ore., teenagers in a city park. Homeless people drink alcohol. An old man spikes his coffee with liquor.
other negative elements: When Aaron escapes after killing two FBI agents, their comrades vow to murder him if they find him alive.
conclusion:"Let me stress that there is no ‘message’ in this film," says director William Friedkin. "There are questions I hope people will wrestle with when they reflect on it, but I don’t provide answers. I have none—only more questions." Few moviegoers will disagree with the first part of Friedkin’s statement. For most of its running time The Hunted feels as if it’s desperately clawing for a theme, yet failing to dig up one. Ethnic cleansing, combat-derived insanity, deep-seated guilt and respect for nature all get screen time. The story of Abraham and Isaac, which forms a rough framework for Aaron and L.T.’s struggle, seems promising at first. Despite his deep love for his offspring, a father (L.T.) must kill his son (Aaron). Only this time, God doesn’t intervene. Yet not even this idea rises to the forefront and Friedkin undercuts any possible philosophical leanings by heaping on charnel house gore. Ultimately, The Hunted seems more interested in spurting arteries than existential ethics. Thus, stripped of any coherent message or even good questions, The Hunted sputters into a meaningless series of gratuitously gory fight scenes.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
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Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Benicio Del Toro as Aaron Hallam; Tommy Lee Jones as L.T. Bonham; Connie Nielsen as FBI Agent Abby Durrell