Prey, The (2019)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 03/04/20 23:41:30

"A reasonably dangerous game."
3 stars (Just Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As "The Most Dangerous Game" riffs go, this certainly is one. You know the story, and the makers of this one don't have any particular twist or hook to add to it too make this stand out in a sea of them. Or at least, not an obvious one from this side of the Pacific; maybe it touches on something topical in Cambodia, but I'd be surprised, as it seems fairly generic, though enjoyably violent.

In it, undercover Chinese Interpol agent Xin (Gu Shangwei) winds up in Cambodia's Western Region Prison when caught at the scene of a crime, and it's not long before he learns that the warden (Vithaya Pansringarm) has a side operation in letting wealthy sadists hunt folks who are unlikely to be missed. The latest group is Mat (Byron Bishop), Payuk (Sahajak Boonthanakit), and his nephew Ti (Nophand Booyai), and it makes sense to include the Chinese guy with no friends in the country among the prey. And if someone like Detective Li (Dy Sonita) shows up to spring Xin after learning where he wound up, it just becomes all that much more important to destroy the evidence and kill the witnesses.

The disappointment is not so much that the story is familiar, but that the execution is mostly just decent. This is the team that made the fairly impressive Jailbreak a couple years earlier, but having a more open environment doesn't necessarily do a lot of good. There's some decent gunplay, but it's seldom as good as the previous film's martial arts and inventive camerawork, mostly just a lot of sharp running and tumbling and pointing guns with purpose. The technique is still slick and it does lead two a couple of quality fights, but the close quarters seemed to inspire more creativity.while the sharply defined geography gave the previous movie structure that this one doesn't have in such abundance.

There are a few striking shots - filmmaker Jimmy Henderson knows exactly what he's doing when the characters burst out of the trees and into a beautiful, bright open space on a riverbank after spending a half-hour or so constantly running through thick jungle. Indeed, the film seems to shine brightest during its occasional moments of downtime, when Xin gets a moment to rest, Ti bristles at being treated as a fool, or Li being frustrated at the transparent garbage she's dealing with. Henderson and company have assembled a pretty fair cast, most of whom comport themselves well during the action scenes and don't stumble too much in between despite some clearly working in second or third languages.

Don't misunderstand; Henderson, fight choreographer John-Paul Ly, and the rest of the crew are talented enough to make a movie that doesn't waste your 90 minutes if it shows up when you search for new action movies. It's a decent example of Action Movie Plot #8, so to speak, rather than one that uses that plot for something new and clever.

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