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The Hunted

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Luckily for the makers of The Hunted, the public's conception of the Rambo series was largely forged by 1985's ridiculous live-action cartoon Rambo: First Blood Part II, which attempted to heal Vietnam's psychic wounds by sending Sylvester Stallone to single-handedly destroy the country's military. Rambo inspired scores of rabidly patriotic knockoffs, but The Hunted is one of the only films to blatantly steal from First Blood, the grim first entry in the Rambo series. Stepping into the Sylvester Stallone role of the elite warrior whose battlefield mentality makes him ill-equipped to handle civilian life is Benicio Del Toro, who plays a highly skilled government assassin who snaps and begins killing civilians. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars in the Richard Crenna role as the man who trained Del Toro to kill, and must now bring him in dead or alive. The Hunted establishes Del Toro's motivations in clumsy and sometimes unintentionally comic fashion. When he first baits a pair of machine-gun-using hunters in the forest, for example, he sounds like the PETA member with the all-time-highest body count. The Hunted similarly overdoes the father-son angle between its protagonists: Even as he's brutally killing civilians and cops, Del Toro behaves like a peeved adolescent acting out because Daddy didn't give him enough attention. Like his protagonists, director William Friedkin seems more comfortable with action and movement than words, which makes it fortunate that The Hunted's second half contains only a few scattered lines of dialogue. Aided by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, Friedkin works economically, lending the film the mark of a master craftsman, albeit of the coldly efficient variety. The terseness and surplus of technical skill make The Hunted surprisingly engaging, even as its screenplay suggests that all of Del Toro's mayhem, violence, and destruction could have been averted through a reassuring hug and a few words of fatherly concern.