William Friedkin: the also-ran of the big studio action movie. After The French Connection, he made a killing with The Exorcist then lost a fortune on Sorcerer (1977), a disastrous remake of Clouzet’s Wages of Fear. From that point on Friedkin never really found his feet again. There was the decidedly patchy thriller To Live and Die in LA, a few feeble horror films and a lot of anaemic television features. The Hunted unfortunater sees Friedkin working again on cruise control.

That’s not to say that there are not incidental pleasures to be derived here. Any film that boasts an opening chorus of Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio del Tara and Johnny Cash has to have something going for it. Jones exudes a certain world- weary fatigue as professional tracker LT Bonham who is obliged to hunt down Aaron Hallam (Del Toro), a protégé he trained up to be a special-forces assassin. The teacher tracks his

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VF 2" ii _ ‘fir. Log on to derivative, dull fare

star pupil who, after military action in Bosnia, is now roaming the Oregon woods and slaying rich deer hunters. His motive for crossing to the wild side is never entirely explained.

The hunter and the hunted play a deft game of cat and mouse. Tommy Lee Jones brings to his role the same hard-nosed (if slightly wearier) demeanour from The Fugitive; he insinuates and slides himself into scenes with the stealth of a cobra and injects volumes into the sparse dialogue while his body double tumbles down rapids and drops through train roofs. Del Toro psychos out with a performance that has all the hypnotic quality as the gaze he fixes his quarry. The death toll mounts to an accompaniment of what looks like a thick red treacle sauce. Connie Nielsen's unlikely FBI agent Abby Durrell proves unexpectedly effective but not consistently enough.

When Hallam is eventually captured by Bonham, his cohorts can only stand by helplessly and watch as he is whisked away without trial by his former special forces colleagues. He manages to escape yet again and there is the inevitable reprise chase, this time through the streets of downtown Portland.

The Hunted calls to mind such similarly themed exercises as First Blood and In the Line of Fire. And while you are embroiled on the trail you realise precisely how derivative it all is. (Richard Mowe)

I General release from Fri 6 Jun.

GHOST STORY DARK WATER (15) 101 min 0000

Filmmaker Hideo Nakata is to Japanese Cinema what pickled chillis are to ice cream. An anathema in his own bloodbath time. Nakata, more so than any other directors of his generation (he's in his 408). opened up the world distribution channels for his Japanese. Taiwanese and Korean horror contempOraries.

His own legend was created in 1998 when he directed a little horrOr film yOU may have heard of called Ring (which was

shamelessly if watchably remade for western audiences by MouseHunt director Gore Verbinski in 2002). In 1999. Ring 2 followed and a year later both were picked up by festivals and proclaimed masterpieces of their genre. Ironically Nakata has had nothing released this Side of the PaCific since then. despite haying made three films in his native country. That is until now. and it was well Worth the wait.

Nakata's bag is the Cinema of MC Roeg. Kubrick and Jacques T0urneur: old fashioned. slow movmg and creepy as hell and a

An elegant pairing of terror and timing

Ster distinctly at Odds With his Yakuza obsessed contemporaries. Dark Water draws a small degree of naturalism into the mix but for the most part it's an elegant pairing of terror and timing that 's steeped in the heavy vapOurs of the writings MR James. EF Benson and HH Munro.

When Yoshimi and her daughter lkuko move into a spooky apartment in a bid to av0id lkuko's father claiming custody. strange things start to happen. water drips from the ceiling and the little girl's behaViour begins to change. Cetild it be that the preVious OCCUpiers are trying to possess them?

Nakata directs With the asswance of a man who has watched Polanski's Repu/siOn more times than is DOSSIny healthy. paranOia and rain soaked dyspepSia permeate every frame. The pace is spot on and even if the final resolution may not be as shocking as it coold have been. the film is still something akin to listening to an old ghost story breathlessly whispered Over a damp wood fire. (Paul Daley I Selected release from Fri 6 Jun. See feature. page ??????????



\/{-‘. t; t H: o 'it‘e to' 'e alumina." tuxle' one of Chairwan Mao's t‘tilfulal i§t‘l‘t‘.".‘it‘t§ On the other it .‘or‘eerns their encounter ‘.'.li." the seai'.‘stress of the title ‘.'.'.'lt) vet‘eixes a sentzrnental education "ori‘ the hem: through the reading of the selected ne'ks of Balxat‘. l-laut‘ert and Dumas

This is t‘SSUIliltili‘. diret‘toi Dal Sijie's ‘.‘v.’a\. of condemning the oppressixe regime of Maoist (Il‘iiza without tailing into one of tune cliches one. the SUDOT'IUI'II‘, of western canonical literature against the onslaught ot ideological anti iiitellet‘tualisni; and two. the pastoral beauti. of a Village retreat that hints at a different better world than that of Chinese communism. We could say though, that he falls headlong into both cancrnous niaxinis at once.

Nofold permeation gone bad

But there's also an agreeable sense of quiet irony here. In Dai's adaptation of his own book, the three characters enter a learning curve that. for all its Maelst planning over 're—education'. leads to a more contingent kind of schooling. The boys come across a case full of banned French literature and find in the young seamstress a Willing learner, And aren't there emotional lessons to be learnt as well, as the youthful characters start to feel new and confused emotions. even love?

Nevertheless. With funding coming from the French coiripany TF1 International. this was always geing to be a cosy. cornprOniised work aimed at a demographic of western Viewers who find the abstract, long- take cinema of, say. Jia Zhangke's recent filni P/atforrrr a bit of a struggle.

This isn't to damn a lovely looking and often enchanting film or those that may get swept up in its beauty. But it is to wonder whether Such films really can tell us anything new. or if they're Just happy telling yet another rite—of-passage story wrth only a vague historical or political edge. The political art-house niovre equivalent of the Disney Viewmaster.

(Tony MCKIDDID) I Fr/mhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 6 Jun.

5—“: JL/‘f: 2923 THE LIST 23