Paramount brings The Hunted to the home viewing market in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement. (A fullscreen version is also available, so be sure to pick up the correct one on the day it streets.) The studio has really picked up the pace when it comes to putting out consistently fine looking video transfers of late and The Hunted is simply another entry in a long line of winners from the studio.
Friedkin and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel have employed some really nice tweaks to the image to make The Hunted more than just a standard-fare action flick and the results come across impressively in Paramount’s DVD transfer. Deschanel’s earthy cinematography looks very crisp and sharp, with a natural color palette that was properly balanced and saturated at all times. From the dark and war torn streets of Kosovo to the primordial Northwestern forests to the concrete jungles of Portland, we get a multitude of settings that were consistently detailed and brusque. The film was very shifty, with a multitude of palettes, but Paramount handles it all in stride and their transfer rarely faltered. Black levels were solid, fleshtones were natural, and The Hunted had few concerns noted throughout.
Flaws were of the run of the mill variety, as some non-distracting grain and some slight shimmer was noted in a couple of areas. Edge enhancement was hardly an issue, as were flakes and flecks on the print and fans of The Hunted have every reason to be excited with Paramount’s transfer.
The studio has also given The Hunted a really nice Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer that fits the material at hand quite well. It was a surprisingly active mix that activated your surrounds at just the right moments without seeming overdone or gratuitous.
From the opening sequences in Kosovo to the deep Northwestern woods and beyond, Paramount has really given your surrounds a good bit to do. While the opening battle scene in Kosovo is quite impressive - with its whizzing bullets and booming explosions - probably one of the more notable moments in the film is when Hallam taunts his “prey” while hiding out in the woods. His voice eerily rings out throughout your living space and you feel that he’s actually in the room with you – taunting you and hiding behind various non-descript pieces of furniture - waiting for just the right moment to jump out and gut you like a fish. Rear surrounds were quite active as well, as basic environmental effects were very lively and engaging many times throughout the film, allowing for a very ambient and immersive experience. All of the effects heard were natural, crisp, and distinct at all times and The Hunted was presented with excellent dynamics and range throughout.
Dialogue was firmly anchored in the center channel, but did exhibit some nice panning and separation from time to time. It was all very clear and intelligible, without any harshness or edginess noted. Brian Tyler’s very contemporary score received nice treatment in Paramount’s track as well and came across as very rich and full at all times. The .1 LFE channel remained fairly active and was obviously most notable during the more active sequences in the film.
The studio has also included an English Dolby Surround mix, a 5.1 mix in French, and English subtitles.
There are a decent amount of supplements to check out on The Hunted, with the most impressive addition to the roster being an Audio Commentary with director William Friedkin. As usual, the director provides a very engaging discussion about his work, as well as his methods, and he does so in a way that’s easily understood by the most simplistic of viewers. He gives an interesting and engaging discussion on The Hunted, as well as some really nice insight on his improvisational and guerilla-like methods for making movies. While Friedkin covers more general topics like working with the actors in the film, shooting on location, and the like, he still manages to make it interesting every step of the way. This was a really engaging commentary and it shouldn’t be missed by those who consider themselves fans of the film, or simply fans of the director himself.
Under the main heading of Documentaries, we get four individual featurettes that tend to gloss over the particular subject they are covering/featuring. First up is Pursuing The Hunted (8:06) and here, director William Friedkin discusses his inspiration for the film, while actors Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones discuss their characters and how they see them in the overall scheme of the film/story. It’s all very high level and while interesting, it’s simply too short to be completely enthralling. Pursuing is followed by Filming The Hunted (9:28) and here, Friedkin and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel discuss the documentary style “look and feel” of The Hunted and how it was accomplished. The opening Kosovo sequence and its execution, as well as its realistic set, is discussed in great length as well.
The last two supplements here are Tracking The Hunted (4:17) and The Cutting Edge (8:40). Tracking gives us a quick introduction to Tom Brown, technical advisor for The Hunted and real life tracker/survivalist – someone you’d definitely want on your side if the proverbial crap ever hit the fan. He also gives us a nice discussion on how certain real world techniques were adapted for use in the film. Edge shows us how certain fight sequences and stunts were set up and performed. The knife fights are the main concentration of the feature and we hear from experts in the field who served as choreographers for the fights.
Next up are six Deleted Scenes (“FBI Sting Section”, “Chenoweth Arrives At Zander’s”, “Bonham Climbs Tree”, “Van Zandt Says Hallam’s Gone”, “Bible Reading And Loretta’s Bedtime”, and “Rock Trap In The Woods”) that taken as a whole, wouldn’t have done too much for the film one way or the other. Their exclusion is no big loss, but it’s nice to have them here to view on DVD if and when we feel like it. Paramount has also included a handy –PLAY ALL- for the scenes as well. In total, the scenes run for 9:46.
Finishing off the disc is the film’s Theatrical Trailer, as well as Previews for other Paramount offerings Timeline, The Core, and The Indiana Jones Collection.
I know I’m playing right into Hollywood’s hand by simply telling viewers to overlook the more ridiculous elements of The Hunted and enjoy it for some of the “cool” fights and chases … but for whatever reason, those elements alone were enough to hold my interest. The film is far from a masterpiece, but it merits a look – at least a rental - in my opinion.
As far as the DVD goes - fuggedaboudit - Paramount has given fans a great way to enjoy the film at home with a really nice package all the way around. While the set is lacking somewhat in the extras category, The Hunted contains pretty sweet transfers in the audio and video areas that should pacify the vast majority of potential owners. Worth a weekend rental for sure, but hard to recommend site unseen, The Hunted is a really nice addition to Paramount’s already impressive stable of titles.