Written by Old Bluffer 6th Mar 2008
Aaron Hallam is a black ops US special forces soldier who has seen action in the most hellish parts of the world. The mental trauma of the atrocities he's seen (and presumably carried out) snap his mind and he goes off radar, hiding out in the forest.
There is one problem with hiding out in the woods in America, in that sooner or later you are going to be disturbed by Stupid Hunters. This is bad news for the hunters, as in his unhinged state, Aaron takes one look at their ridiculously overequipped weaponry and assumes they are enemy "sweepers", looking for him.
Do deer hunters really need observatory-grade scopes?!
Killing Stupid Hunters is always good fun in a film, and here is no exception. Aaron utilises various skills such as "Predator" like stealth abiliies and the ability to throw his voice around all 6.1 speakers in my home cinema setup to taunt and terrorise his victims. After tormenting them further with some *nasty* death traps, he eviscerates them in the style of a hunter butchering an elk.
If it wasn't for his penchant for killing hunters, he could have stayed in the wilderness undetected for any amount of time.
This is because he has been trained in Survival Skills by "L.T." - a superhuman woodsman of the type you could only achieve by splicing together the DNA of Ray Mears, Bear Grylls and Legolas. Despite never having killed anyone in combat himself, L.T. was also responsible for teaching him advanced knife fighting skills. In short L.T. is probably one of the few people that Aaron has any respect for.
After four killings, the local authorities realise they've got a problem, and the FBI are duly drafted in. Rather than try and flush out Aaron themselves though, they decide it would be much better to locate (the now retired) L.T. and guilt him into helping instead.
I'm going to digress at this point, to note that one of our favourite things at the MDDB is a film that is laugh-out-loud-funny but takes itself extremely seriously. Usually in these cases, the director tries to start off with the intention of making a finely crafted piece of cinema, but soon decides that it needs more "wow factor", resulting in a film that just gets steadily sillier. This is a phenomenon that Mouseburger in particular really enjoys, and I'm pleased to say that Hunted is very much of this ilk.
To demonstrate this, I'll summarise the plot so far in terms of silliness:
Scene 1: Aaron in war-torn Kosovo. It is genuinely horrible here, but there is still some humour to be derived from the incredibly unsubtle direction. Soldiers gun down hundreds of innocents, a lone girl picks her stuffed toy out from amongst the corpses of her family etc etc.
Silliness factor: quite low.
Scene 2: the aforementioned surround sound killing of the Stupid Hunters. Has enjoyable moments such as Aaron climbing 40' up a tree in a few seconds and throwing a knife through the trunk of a sapling so hard that daylight is visible when he removes it.
Silliness factor: a bit silly
Scene 3: We get to meet L.T. and need to be shown what a great woodsman he is. So, he finds a wolf which is clearly and visibly trapped by a hunter's snare. He walks up fearlessly, speaking calming and well scripted gems such as "what's happened to you? Have you got caught in a snare?" (this hints at his amazing powers of observation later in the film!). As he frees the wolf's bloodied paw, he simultaneously locates and chews up some moss into a poultice, and then applies it as the wolf looks on in bemusement. This would appear to tell us all we need to know about L.T., except that he's also a badass. So, we see him read the name off the snare and go and knock the hunter who laid it senseless in a nearby bar.
Silliness factor: pretty damn silly.
I'll return to the normal review now, but suffice to say, the silliness factor continues to arc ever upwards from now on.
L.T. arrives at the scene of the most recent killing, and quickly orders everyone back while he dazzles us with his tracking skills. These are pretty impressive, as he easily spots the hole in the tree made by Aaron's thrown knife, and then moves on to locating his actual hideout by means of stroking leaves, listening to birdsong etc. We also get the first instance of him finding a footprint that has no tread on it. This identifies the killer as someone whom L.T. has trained, as he also favours these distinctive moccasins. However, throughout the whole film the supposedly elusive Aaron will manage to leave these "trackless" identifiers wherever he goes. More on this later...
The infamous Cursed Moccasins of Escape (-2)
At the hideout, there is an obligatory bible bookmarked at a Deep and Meaningful passage (all nutters in movies seem to do this) and Aaron soon returns back to his hidey hole, resulting in the pair's first knife fight. This is actually pretty good, with some nice martial arts choreography. When they start grappling on the ground it gets genuinely technical, with armbars and sweeps being used.
Aaron gets the upper hand though, knocking L.T. semi-unconscious, but is then shot with a tranquiliser gun and captured by the film's Token Attractive Woman, an FBI agent called Abby. She has a bit of backstory, which was subsequently cut from the final film, but she was never going to be a major character. All you need to know about her is that she's a tough (but of course agreeable to look at) agent who will fire her gun a few times but have no significant effect on any aspect of the plot.
Aaron is therefore captured, and given to the custody of military spooks, who decide to kill him but obviously fail dismally, even though he is in chains at the time. Aaron kills them and escapes into the woods again, and from this point on the entire film is pretty much a prolonged chase with Aaron running, hiding and then running again, and L.T. finding his trail no matter what.
This trailing becomes increasingly amusing, as Aaron has an uncanny knack of leaving his distinctive "treadless" footprints all over a built up city. If there are a few square feet of grass, you can bet Aaron will detour off the concrete to run across it. L.T. doesn't always rely on this though, he homes in on his quarry with unerring accuracy no matter how many millions of people mill about between them.
Sure enough, Aaron soon gets "treed" like a squirrel. In this case though, the tree is an Enormous Bridge, which he scampers to the very top of whilst FBI agents zing bullets off the steel girders. No expense is spared to bring him down. Helicopters, gunboats and possibly elephant cavalry are despatched to the area, but all to no avail. Aaron does the obvious and jumps hundreds of metres down into the water below, without breaking so much as a lace on his damn moccasins.
Now L.T. can really shine, as he has some Proper Tracking to do that will surely be a challenge even for him. Consider, Aaron can clamber to land anywhere within many kilometres of the bridge, and can then use his woodslore to stay hidden.
Oh no he can't - not with L.T. on his trail. The plucky tracker pinpoints the exact area that he emerged from the river, and then climbed a sheer cliff to get away from civilisation - so it seems that a confrontation is imminent.
It is here that we reach what is perhaps the funniest part of the film, as by some mutual psychic agreement, both of them abandon their game of Hide and Seek, to make a knife from scratch.
So, with the certain knowledge that he is being tracked by an expert with a tenacity that would make the Terminator blush, Aaron takes time out to :
- locate a disused building yard
- grab some old iron that happens to be lying around
- construct a forge
- fuel it with twigs
- somehow create a heat hot enough to work steel
- spend hours, if not days beating it into shape and then tempering it
Personally, I'm thinking that whacking great iron bar would have been far more effective as an improvised weapon before he started messing about with it.
L.T. for his part favours a more old-school approach. He locates some flint and proceeds to knap it like a caveman. The metaphor is clear, we have the younger, tougher assassin against the brittle age and experience of Tommy Lee Jones. As I say, it is hilarious.
Call that a knife? It's barely an arrowhead!
So, suitably armed, they resume their chase, but now we know that a Climactic Knife Fight is imminent (as if we were in any doubt, it was telegraphed throughout the film!).
Before this can happen though, there is even more dapping about, in the form of Aaron having constructed a complex Death Trap in the woods (he did this before he forged his knife!). This memorable trap consists of the finest twine looped over a delicate plant stem. L.T. finds this virtually invisible trigger, and proceeds to yank it hard, just to see what would happen. The result is astounding, with two tree trunks swinging towards each other to slam together in a completely different location to where the trap was set off. In other words, an utterly pointless waste of time.
By now Aaron has to realise that L.T. would quite easily track him to Venus and beyond, so he hangs back and sets a foot snare on the edge of a precipice. He then waits until L.T. goes and stands directly on this noose, and throws a wooden spike deep into his leg. L.T. tumbles over the edge in pain, but is left dangling a few feet above the rapids by the noose. Obviously he cuts the rope and falls into the rapids anyway, so this component of the trap was fairly redundant.
It's difficult to see, but TLJ has an oversized toothpick stuck in his leg here. Tune in this time next week to see if our hero escapes!
Eventually, L.T. escapes the rapids, and emerges sodden, exhausted and battered. Aaron is waiting for him, and surely now they will fight?
Not yet! For some unfathomable reason L.T. approaches Aaron in what seems like an attempt to hug him. Aaron is obviously not interested in this belated fellowship, and slashes a deep wound in his knife hand for his troubles. L.T. seems genuinely dismayed at this act of unfriendliness - has he not been paying attention for the whole film?!
Bleeding copiously from hand and leg before he even starts then, L.T. finally engages his protegé in bladed combat. This is somewhat realistic, in that despite their superb skill, both of them get cut to ribbons in quick time - but is also completely implausible as they continue to fight long past the point when any normal mortal could still have enough platelets left to pump round their body. Seriously, this really is nearly Death by a Thousand Cuts.
Even a Vampire Lord would have conceded defeat by this last picture, but Aaron is made of sterner stuff.
At one point Aaron uses a deep wound in his arm to his advantage, by gathering up a cupped handul of his own blood and hurling it into L.T.'s eyes. He uses this distraction to run off and administer some field surgery. L.T. catches up to him, and dishes out yet more Deep Cuts, spilling enough blood to satisfy even a Zatoichi fan.
He takes more shredding himself of course, and then his flint knife gets struck directly by the twig-tempered-steel blade and shatters. Facing an opponent with no knife, Aaron gets to mete out revenge, keeping the Hollywood Theatrical Blood Guild laughing all the way to the bank.
Aaron gives an Anime Death Stare and makes an Arm Kebab.
Aaron then makes his fatal mistake, and gets his brand new knife stuck through L.T.'s arm. His old mentor is far too manly to let this stop him, and he rips it loose and buries it in the youngster's midriff. This is one stab wound too many, and Aaron falls onto his back.
At this point, predictably, the FBI turn up, but L.T. stares them down - the implication is that he stops them from saving Aaron's life, only to then put him in solitary confinement for the next fifty years.
Instead, he cradles the head of his dying student, and lets him die naturally, which doesn't take long it has to be said.
*Now* he's wishing he didn't spend all those hours forging a knife - those things are dangerous!.
The film now ends with more subtlety than you'd expect given the preceding silliness. L.T. is shown burning dozens of (possibly unread) letters from Aaron. Did he ignore these cries for help, and is that why he felt responsible for his subsequent homicidal killing spree?
The final scene is less subtle - the wolf that L.T. rescued at the beginning strides majestically but alone through a winter wilderness, and L.T. looks on with grizzled stoicism.