FILM REVIEW: ‘The Hunted’ a bad blend of older films

If you’ve ever wondered what movie would result from the combination of the first Rambo movie and “The Fugitive,” the new film, “The Hunted” is the answer.

“The Hunted” is a blatant rip-off of both films.

Benicio Del Toro stars as Aaron Hallam, a soldier whose combat experience has left him a psychotic killing machine, hiding in the woods and brutally killing people with his knife.

Sylvester Stallone pulled off the act in a more convincing way in the 1982 film, “First Blood.” That film, the first in the Rambo trilogy, also was about a soldier who suffers a mental breakdown and flees to the woods.

Of the two films, “First Blood” is a more personal and engaging film that gives a better idea of the psychology of the unstable former soldier.

The motivation and the event that leads Hallam to the woods is not explored, which makes the character pretty dull and two-dimensional.

The other lead character in the film is Hallam’s former knife combat instructor, L.T. Bonham, played by Tommy Lee Jones. The government asks Bonham to track down Hallam when the crazed ex-soldier escapes into the wilderness, because Bonham has the tracking skills needed for the task.

Though he has never killed anyone, Bonham has trained soldiers in survival, tracking and close combat killing. As an expert tracker, Jones reprises his role as Sam Gerard from “The Fugitive.” As Gerard, Jones was sharp and driven in his pursuit, and as Bonham, he simply adds more acute senses and a primal nature to his character.

Most of “The Hunted” is reminiscent of scenes from the two older films. There is one scene in which Hallam takes a hostage on a subway train. This is similar to a confrontation between the fugitive and the one-armed man in “The Fugitive.”

When the tables are turned and Hallam hunts his former teacher, Bonham escapes by plunging into a raging river. It reminds me of the scene in which Harrison Ford jumps off a dam and into a river in “The Fugitive.”

“The Hunted” does have a few redeeming scenes and they all involve chases through a city and a forest.

Well-conceived chases are director William Friedkin’s forte. Friedkin is the award-winning director of “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist” from the 70s. Unfortunately, the director lost his dramatic flare about 30 years ago.

What “The Hunted” needed must have been cut out during editing. Character development, the motivation behind Hallam’s psychological disturbance and the reason why he ended up in the woods, are all missing.

There are small hints of a government cover-up of Hallam’s top secret mission, but that subplot was disposed when it could’ve saved the film.

With the acting power and a talented production team on this project, “The Hunted” should have been a multi-layered, dramatically engaging film with action-packed chases. Instead, the film is a sickly hybrid of far better films.