Jimmy Henderson, the man who brought us the exuberant “Jailbreak” is back with “The Prey”, a movie that – as an old advert used to claim – “it does what it says on the tin”; it has in facts all the ingredients of the classic action movie that the fans of the genre expect. “The Prey” had its World Premiere at Busan International Film Festival, was screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is now doing the Festival run and it is expected to have a good commercial future life.
Newcomer Gu Shang Wei plays Xin, an undercover Interpol operative who is investigating a phone scam that is spreading in China and seems to be based in Phnom Penh. When Cambodian Police raids the operation’s headquarter and arrest everybody, Xin has to go along with it in order to keep his cover. The bunch of arrested criminals are sent to a forgotten prison at the border, governed by a ruthless and sadistic warden called … The Warden (Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm). Xin manages to send a signal to his boss in Beijing, just in time before being labeled as a trouble-maker and consequently sent with a group of other unlucky fellow prisoners to a mysterious mission in the jungle.
Xin soon discover that the mission consists of being used as preys in a cruel game where rich and capricious players try to hunt down the escaping and frighten humans. The three hunters Payak (Sahajak Boonthanakit), Mat (Byron Bishop), and Ti (Nophand Boonyai) have paid a hefty sum to The Warden and are competing with each other over the number of killed preys. Xin will have to look out and try to survive while help is on the way.
Jimmy Henderson and his “Jailbreak” co-writers Michael Hodgson and Kai Miller have put together a claustrophobic plot heavily inspired by past movies like “The Most Dangerous Game” and “Hard Target”, to mention only two, and filled it with action and pulp classic topics and elements. In fact, all the characters and the situations are very stereotypical – to say the least – and seen many times before. However, instead of being its downfall, this is actually the best asset of the movie. It needs obviously to be looked upon with a pinch or two of sense of humor in order to enjoy it fully.
Like in a lurid comic book, the super-evil Warden smokes a huge cigar, the hero is unkillable, the hunters are complete psychopaths and Chinese rescue detective Ly (Dy Sonita) is a supermodel in pristine white silk shirt and perfect make up in the middle of Cambodian hell. Moreover, guns always finish ammo at the right moment, tree brunches are in handy spots and there is always a hole where to hide and a mirror where to spot an enemy around the corner. In other words it is un-sophisticated fun.
On the other hand it must be said that in “Jailbreak” all these pulp elements were more unashamedly utilized, making the humor in “The Prey” less evident.
The jungle setting serves its purpose and the dynamic camerawork together with the photography render an ominous background for the action that is in part gun player and in part decently choreographed fights. Gu Shang Wei as Xin does a good job but he is slightly obscured by Vithaya Pansringarm and his deliciously hideous villain.
Not a masterpiece but a good piece of honest entertainment for the genre fans.