This dreary generic chase movie is so thoroughly formulaic that not even the presence of two wonderfully talented three-named Oscar winners can inspire a flicker of interest.
Benecio del Toro plays Aaron, a former special forces killing machine who has finally snapped. He lives out in the woods and is either so far gone that he believes deer hunters are really CIA agents sent to kill him or he is so far gone that he just kills anyone who crosses his path, especially if they hurt animals.
Tommy Lee Jones plays L.T., a survival expert who trained Aaron and hundreds of other soldiers. He, too, seems to like animals more than people. We see him tenderly rescue a beautiful white huskie from a snare and then slam the head of the guy who set it against a table.
L.T. tracks down Aaron quickly, but he escapes, so L.T. has to track him down again. That’s pretty much the whole story. There is an attempt at making it all about something more, from the opening with Johnny Cash reciting Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61” and encounters with three little girls that may be intended to raise the issue of how our society can turn men into killing machines and then expect them to hold on to human values (or sanity). But it doesn’t work. Del Toro and Jones do their best, and the fight scenes are refreshingly real in this era of fight choreographers and tricks on wires. These fights are awkward, exhausting, and desperate (except when everyone stops what they’re doing to forge some new weapons in a completely over-the-top moment of idiocy). But overall, the movie is simultaneously lightweight, pretentious, and forgettable.
Parents should know that the movie has brutal violence, including battle scenes. Characters are in intense peril and many are killed. Characters use strong language. Minority and female characters are strong, capable, and loyal and diverse characters clearly respect each other and work well together.
Families who see this movie should talk about whether L.T. feels responsible for Aaron. Should he have answered the letters or alerted the authorities to a problem? How do we train people to become killers and then expect them to go on with their lives? Is it possible to give someone like Aaron justice?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a similar story in “Rambo.”