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Review: THE PREY (2018) Fantasia 2019

A few months ago, I was browsing Netflix and found a film called Jailbreak. Being a fan of Asian action films and having never seen a film from Cambodia, I had to watch it. And saying it impressed me would be an understatement. A low budget, high action variation on The Raid, it took me by surprise. Now the folks responsible for it are back with The Prey.

Films about humans hunting other humans are nothing new, From the 1930s version of The Most Dangerous Game through Hard Target, and Never Leave Alive it’s a popular theme. The Prey adds the prison camp element from the Ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot for a satisfyingly brutal slice of action cinema.

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Xin (Gu Shangwei) is an undercover Interpol agent. A surprise raid by local police results in him being captured and sent to a remote prison run by The Warden (Vithaya Pansringarm, Only God Forgives, Eullenia). He delights in torturing inmates to the tune of what sounds like 50s music. He also stages hunts for wealthy patrons. Hunts with inmates as the prey.

Needless to say, Xin finds himself one of the hunted. Can he stay alive until help arrives? Or until he’s killed his way through the hunters Mat (Byron Bishop, Hellgate, M.I.A. A Greater Evil), Payak (Sahajak Boonthanakit, Hard Target 2) and (Nophand Boonyai, Vampires: The Turning, Boa) as well as The Warden and his men?

Director Jimmy Henderson gets the chance to move outside the confined sets of Jailbreak’s prison and uses the jungle to good advantage. The Prey has some nicely staged chases and a beautifully framed fight by a waterfall. The final confrontation which involves an attack on a rebel village is a bit contrived but undeniably exciting.

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It’s also good to see Jean-Paul Ly and his team expand from mostly hand-to-hand fights to work with vehicles, gunfire and all manner of other action scenes. Ly has worked on films as varied as The Girl With All The Gifts, Nightshooters and Hobbs And Shaw. He’s obviously learned well and is putting that experience to good use.

On the script side, there’s still some room for improvement. There’s almost no character development, even by action film standards. We need a little more than he’s a cop who can kick ass, he’s the good guy. Or he’s a psycho who hunts people, he’s the villain. Also, some of the individual plot threads could have used more satisfying payoffs.

Still, The Prey is well worth seeing for action fans. Jimmy Henderson is at the point in his career that Gareth Evans was after Merantau. He just needs the right script and a bit bigger budget to make it to the next level.

Raven Banner has picked The Prey up and hopefully, it will be getting released in the near future. It made its Canadian debut at Fantasia 2019 as part of its festival run. You can check for dates near you on the film’s Facebook page.

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