Left unhinged after a gory stint with NATO troops in Kosovo, a US Special Forces soldier (Benicio Del Toro) returns home to Oregon and starts ripping up deer hunters. To catch him, the FBI recruits the man who trained him in killing, an expert tracker named L.T. (Tommy Lee Jones, whose mournful, almost diffident performance is in key with the filmís overwhelming grimness). Early on, L.T. marks himself as a force to reckon with when he goes alone into the woods after his prey, rejecting offers of assistance with the curt rejoinder, " If Iím not back in two days, itíll mean Iím dead. "
Doing all that could be done to make this drab exercise in bloodletting look like a real movie, director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) brings textured, layered imagery and disorienting low angles to the scenes in the woods, defends with vigor his status as a master of chase scenes, and keeps the jolts coming. Lunging at thematic resonance, the script provides a running series of Abraham-and-Isaac references and audience nudgers like comparing the American city ó in this case Portland ó to a " wilderness. " But The Hunted works only when itís taciturn, blunt, and savage. (94 minutes)