BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO Cohen Media Group
RUNNING TIME 105 Minutes
• Interview with Director Eric Valette
• Making-Of Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
They make mediocre action films in other countries, too!
Albert Dupontel, Alice Taglioni, Sergi López
A convicted bank robber breaks out of prison to protect his family after confiding sensitive information to a fellow cellmate, only to realize he’s actually a madman who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Every review needs a hook. An intriguing opening statement that I can tie into some sort of thesis. I can’t for the life of me think of a good hook to describe The Prey, because the film never evoked a single strong emotion from me. It made a very shallow impression. It’s equal parts serviceable, clunky, admirable, and trashy. Nearly nothing about the film made me lean toward positive or negative. It was as if I hadn’t seen anything at all. It was a hollow experience, an empty calorie.
I’ve spent too long thinking about why this film felt so hollow, and here’s the first silly reason I can come up with: as an American, most contemporary European prison movies seem tame by comparison. When Mikael Blomqvist goes to prison at the end of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish version), I spent a good fifteen seconds wondering why he had moved into such a spartan apartment. Then I remembered: oh, right. Swedish prison. Looks cozy.
Admittedly, the French prison seen in The Prey isn’t quite as nice as a Swedish prison, but it’s a lot cleaner, newer, and more colorful than your typical American prison. It kinda looks like Space Camp, except with better fistfights and more cello/harpsichord concerts. Someone gets stabbed in the ear with a screwdriver Dawn of the Dead style at one of these concerts, and I’d love to make a joke about how getting stabbed in the ear is better than listening to a cello/harpsichord duo, but I love me some cello and harpsichord.
The screwdriver stabbee is none other than our star, Albert Dupontel, who will only be referred to as wiry French Antonio Banderas (WFAB, for short) from this point forward. WFAB’s a surprising action star. He carries the flick just fine, but if he was an American actor in an American action film he’d be playing Shopkeeper #2. Even more surprising is the film’s milquetoast pedo villain, played by Stéphane Debac. He isn’t given a mustache to twirl in the film, but I can see him mentally twirling his imaginary ‘stache in every second of screen time. He’s not as hammy as that might sound, but the film goes out of its way to make him especially despicable, as if the whole pedophile/murderer thing wasn’t enough.
The obligatory cop role in the film is filled out by Alice Taglioni, who they have to dress up as a hooker before introducing her to us as a cop. Like WFAB, she’s fine in the role, which sounds like a stupid thing to say but I can’t summon the enthusiasm necessary to further condemn or praise her performance. She is given a character arc, which I suppose counts for something (as small as it may be).
One of the only faces I recognized as an American viewer was Sergi López, who played the evil stepfather in Pan’s Labyrinth. Here, he plays a scarred ex-cop who delivers exposition about evil pedo dude. I’ve got no idea why López would appear in this movie, but his presence is welcome and his character is fun. At one point this character just strolls into a police station, impersonates a police officer on the phone, and when caught he’s just told “you don’t work here anymore, remember?” Oh, movies.
The film’s tone, while mostly trashy and mean-spirited, is broken up by a few (possibly unintentional) laughs, like when WFAB effortlessly steals a car from some young whippersnappers outside a restaurant. We are given this reaction shot as he sighs and drives away:
This is perhaps the only moment in the film that elicited a vocal reaction from me. It’s strange and hilarious, and it’s even stranger when compared to the moody driving scene that takes place right after the car theft:
See what I mean? This flick is one odd duck.
If there is something to be admired about this action film, it is perhaps the action. Director Eric Valette knows how to stage his set pieces. There’s a great window jump, a nice shootout with some gooey blood squibs, a brutal head-scraping prison fight, and a roadblock smash that must have been shot with 36 cameras. WFAB hasn’t quite mastered the Tom Cruise run, though. His arms are floppy and the look on his face is anything but badass.
Despite WFAB’s Looney Tunes style sprint, most of the stunt work is surprisingly good, and WFAB performed most of his own stunts. My only complaint is that the action sequences feature too many cuts, making them feel piecemeal instead of fluid. The roadblock scene exemplifies this perfectly. You don’t need insane coverage from a bunch of angles to sell one car crash.
It all comes back to this, though: I wish I had more to say. The trouble with (and failure of) The Prey is that it doesn’t really have anything special on its side. It’s goofy, mean, and occasionally dumb as hell, but then again it’s got some decent action set pieces. But there’s nothing that’ll knock your socks off, nothing as ludicrous as John McClane launching a cop car into a helicopter (if you’re into that sort of thing). Despite the fancy allure of its French wrapper, The Prey is nothing more than junk food.
On the technical side, the disc excels in presentation. Audio and video quality are near superb, which is typical for a Cohen Collection release. The extras aren’t much, but the 38-minute making-of features detailed breakdowns and on-set footage of the film’s major action scenes. It’s fun to watch the actors rehearse their fight choreography and dive through windows, so I’d say that the featurette is a better time at the movies than the movie itself.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars