The Hunted (2003 film)

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The Hunted
Theatrical release poster
Directed by William Friedkin
Produced by Ricardo Mestres
James Jacks
Written by David Griffiths
Peter Griffiths
Art Monterastelli
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
Benicio del Toro
Connie Nielsen
Narrated by Johnny Cash
Music by Brian Tyler
Cinematography Caleb Deschanel
Edited by Augie Hess
Lakeshore Entertainment
Alphaville Films
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
March 14, 2003 (2003-03-14)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million
Box office $45,496,534[1]

The Hunted is a 2003 American action crime-thriller film directed by William Friedkin and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro.


U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Aaron Hallam, a former United States clandestine operator, has spent much of his career performing covert assassinations in service to the government. These missions leave the sensitive and intelligent Hallam conflicted and it is implied that he was either set up, or that the government became dissatisfied with the results of his more recent assignments, that results in his current predicament.

In the wilderness of Silver Falls State Park, Oregon, Hallam encounters two deer hunters equipped with expensive scoped rifles. Hallam tells them that, because of these technological advantages, they are not "true hunters." They pursue him through the woods but are no match for his skill and use of traps. He eventually kills the pair with his knife.

L.T. Bonham, a former civilian instructor of military survival and combat training, now lives secluded deep in the woods of British Columbia, working for the Wildlife fund. He is approached to help apprehend Hallam, one of his former students. According to the authorities, Hallam has gone renegade after suffering severe battle stress from his time in the Kosovo War. The FBI provides recent photos showing how Hallam butchered the hunters.

Bonham agrees and is asked to work with FBI task force, led by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Abby Durrell. Bonham tracks Hallam and discovers his personal effects within a hollow tree trunk deep in the woods. When he emerges from the tree, Hallam is standing over him. Hallam immediately recognizes Bonham, who feigns ignorance, and asks why he never answered any of his letters. Bonham attacks, but in the ensuing hand-to-hand fight is beaten near unconscious. Suddenly, Hallam is shot from behind with a tranquilizer dart and the FBI task force, which had been tracking Bonham, sweeps in to capture Hallam.

During his interrogation, Hallam is uncooperative and looks mainly to Bonham, who he regards as a father figure of sorts. When he begins to mention a military black operation he participated in, Bonham cuts him off for his safety. The FBI is unsure of how to treat their would-be murder suspect, and Hallam is soon in the custody of his former Special Forces colleagues, who tell the FBI that Hallam cannot stand trial due to the secret operations he was part of.

While being transported, the operatives indicate that they intend to kill Hallam to ensure his silence. However, Hallam manages to kill all the operatives and escape. Alerted to the incident, Bonham and the FBI team track Hallam across the city and back into the wilderness, where Hallam consistently evades them. As he had been taught by Bonham, he crafts an improvised knife by making a fire and forging a blade from pieces of scrap metal. Convinced that the FBI's tactics aren't working and before more men are lost, Bonham strikes out on his own to find Aaron. Crafting his own knife out of stone, he goes into the wilderness and the search quickly becomes a fight to the death between teacher and student.

In a vicious knife fight beside a waterfall, Bonham's knife is broken and he suffers severe wounds but manages to stab Hallam to death with his own knife. The FBI arrives too late, and Bonham walks away without saying a word. Returning to his home in British Columbia, Bonham starts to burn the letters Hallam referenced earlier, in which Hallam expressed his concerns over the things he had done as a government assassin.



The film was partially filmed in and around Portland, Oregon and Silver Falls State Park. Portland scenes were filmed in Oxbow Park, the South Park Blocks, and Tom McCall Waterfront Park.[2] The technical adviser for the film was Tom Brown, Jr., an American outdoorsman and wilderness survival expert. The story is partially inspired by a real-life incident involving Brown, who was asked to track down a former pupil and Special Forces sergeant who had evaded capture by authorities. This story is told in Tom's book, Case Files Of The Tracker.[citation needed]

Fight choreography[edit]

The unusually realistic, brutal hand-to-hand combat and knife fighting in the film featured Filipino Martial Arts. Thomas Kier and Rafael Kayanan of Sayoc Kali were brought in by Benicio del Toro.[3] They were credited as knife fight choreographers for the film.


Box office[edit]

The box office for the film was less than its reported production budget of $55 million.[4] The Hunted opened on March 14, 2003 at #3 in 2,516 theaters across North America and grossed $13.48 million during its opening weekend.[5] It went on to gross $34,244,097 in North America and $11,252,437 internationally markets for a worldwide total of $45,496,534.[4]

Critical response[edit]

The overall critical reaction to the movie was negative. It scored a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 146 reviews.[6]

Many reviewers noted striking similarities to First Blood, which this film was unfavorably compared to. Rolling Stone called it "Just a Rambo rehash."[7] While there was some praise for the cinematography and the action scenes, much criticism was directed at the thin plot and characterization, and the general implausibility. Rex Reed of the New York Observer called it a "Ludicrous, plotless, ho-hum tale of lurid confrontation."[citation needed] The UK magazine, Total Film said the film was "scarcely exciting to watch."[8]

However, the film also received praise from other high profile critics, particularly for the fact it kept the special effects and stunts restrained. For example, Roger Ebert said, "We've seen so many fancy high-tech computer-assisted fight scenes in recent movies that we assume the fighters can fly. They live in a world of gravity-free speed-up. Not so with Friedkin's characters."[9] He reviewed the film on his own site and scored it 3 and 1/2 stars out of four.[9] Time Out London was also positive saying, "Friedkin's lean, mean thriller shows itself more interested in process than context, subtlety and character development pared away in favour of headlong momentum and crunching set pieces."[10]


  1. ^ The Hunted (2003). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  2. ^ "EXTRAS". The Oregonian. 2003-03-17. pp. C02.
  3. ^ The Hunted. Sayoc Combat Choreography (2003-08-12). Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  4. ^ a b The Hunted at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ Daily Box Office for The Hunted from Box Office Mojo
  6. ^ "The Hunted". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster.
  7. ^ "The Hunted : Review". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 20, 2007.
  8. ^ Total Film - The Hunted
  9. ^ a b "The Hunted". Chicago Sun-Times.
  10. ^ The Hunted Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London

External links[edit]