The Most Dangerous Game is easily one of the most adapted stories in the history of cinema, with filmed versions of it going back to the 1932 classic and various versions or homages since then, including some Everything Action all-time favorites like Hard Target. Coming out of Cambodia, The Prey doesn’t add too much new to the genre but it is a solid and well-made thriller with some cool martial arts action.
Gu Shangwei makes his film debut as Xin, a Chinese detective who has been undercover in Cambodia trying to gain info on a phone scam. When he’s arrested by the Cambodian police in a raid, he’s sent to a brutal jungle prison overseen by The Warden (Vithaya Pansringarm), who illegally offers up his prisoners as prey to wealthy big-game hunters to kill for sport. Xin becomes one of the targets along with two other prisoners and he has to fight his way through the jungle to try and survive. The Prey doesn’t do much that other adaptations or homages to The Most Dangerous Game haven’t already done and it’s also fairly straight forward as far as the plot. The movie does establish that almost no one is safe and there are a few shocking/surprising deaths along the way and Xin himself definitely goes through the wringer throughout the film, ending up extremely bloodied and battered by the end. That may be one thing that sets The Prey apart is that it is probably one of the more brutal takes on the story, with legs getting blown off, bamboo spikes being impaled through people, and lots of gunshot squibs. The martial arts angle also adds some newness to the story but don’t go in expecting something like The Raid or The Night Comes for Us. There are 2 or 3 extended fight scenes but a lot of the “action” is more in line with something like First Blood where there are more scenes of tension that build to a quick shootout or kill, but The Prey does those scenes incredibly well.
As far as the acting, Gu Shangwei is a decent action hero in his debut role. He’s not as compelling as say, an Iko Uwais, but he does a solid job and I would be interested to see him in more things. Much like the last major film I saw him in, Only God Forgives, Vithaya Pansringarm steals most of the scenes he’s in as The Warden, like gleefully torturing Xin with shock therapy while upbeat retro rock music plays in the background. I would love to see him in more Western films because he has such an engaging acting style but maybe I just need to seek out more Asian cinema. The rest of the cast is OK but they don’t really have much to do outside of generic archetypes. Nophand Boonyai as the youngest and cockiest hunter “T” could have been interesting due to the fact that he has some sort of mental issue that causes him to start hallucinating but it happens in a pretty jarring fashion and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to him losing it or not from that point on.
The Prey is a solid, fun take on The Most Dangerous Game but it doesn’t really do anything significantly different from other movies that have been inspired by Richard Connell’s classic story besides some martial arts flair, the Cambodian/Chinese cast, and the Cambodian setting. If you’re a fan of this type of story, The Prey is worth checking out but for anyone who may be tired of it or looking for something more original may come away disappointed.
The Prey is out now in Virtual Theaters including Los Angeles (Laemmle), New York (Alamo On Demand), and major cities and on VOD on August 25th, including: iTunes, Amazon,