Right after watching too many sloppily-made thrillers filling up space on Netflix (including Mercury Rising, Double Jeopardy, and Along Came a Spider), it’s a relief that The Hunted is so solidly made. You really can’t expect anything less from William Friedkin.
So why is it so unsatisfying? First, it doesn’t really capitalize on the potential of an intriguing character: a former special forces agent, trained to become a dehumanized killing machine, who can’t “turn it off”. Pitting such a damaged person against the man who trained him ought to have produced fireworks. Instead of a character study we only get a series of chase sequences.
Benicio Del Toro‘s trademark blasé mumbling is his whole appeal, but here he just seems to be sleepwalking. At the time, Tommy Lee Jones was on the tail end of his plausibility as an action hero, and The Hunted certainly plays off his signature role in The Fugitive. But at his performance conveys his character’s guilt in richer ways than the script does. For meaning and emotional oomph, the movie leans pretty heavily on a thuddingly obvious metaphor (a wounded wolf) and a Johnny Cash tune.