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Men in black-ops

By David Sterritt / March 14, 2003



"The Hunted" is a 94-minute chase movie, and its chief ambition seems to be staging the action against as many Pacific Northwest backgrounds as possible.

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Here we are in a snowy woods! We're dangling over a raging river! Wow, we're racing up the catwalk of an interstate bridge! Now we're plunging through the window of a quiet suburban home!

And on and on, with hardly a pause for breath. Or thought. Which is fortunate for the filmmakers, since we don't have time to wonder why lethal wounds never slow the main characters down. And why bullets always miss the bad guy so the good guy can stay in hot pursuit. And why we're watching such a ham-fisted movie without making our own mad dash to the exit.

Tommy Lee Jones plays the hero, an aging lawman who spent his prime teaching soldiers how to make killing a "reflex action," as he pithily puts it. Benicio Del Toro plays the villain, a former student who learned his lessons all too well, becoming a "killing machine" so deadly that his very existence is a government secret.

The movie begins with a Kosovo massacre in 1999, giving the impression it's interested in history and world affairs. But it soon gets down to its real business: fights, face-offs, and showdowns mired in the shallowest sort of Hollywood machismo.

Back in the '70s, director William Friedkin showed a flair for over-the-top spectacle in pictures like "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist," which helped define that decade's moviegoing tastes. "The Hunted" has a small fraction of their impact. Don't bother tracking it down.

Rated R; contains violence.

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