Film

Ooh La La, 'The Prey' Is a Nail-Biter

The Prey bounces along from one suspense-building setup to the next, erupting in a flurry of running, shooting, driving very fast, and occasionally falling from great heights.


The Prey

Director: Eric Vallette
Cast: Albert Dupontel, Alice Taglioni, Stephane Debac, Natacha Regnier
Distributor: Cohen
Rated: R
Release date: 2014-01-21

The Prey is a French thriller in the mold of The Fugitive, with a number of important differences, the most important being that the protagonist is a bank robber already in jail as the film begins. Franck Adrien has only three months left to serve on his sentence, but that proves to be three months too long, when, after a lengthy setup, he realizes that his wife and young daughter are in mortal danger die to a miscalculation he has made.

Frantic with worry, Adrien manages to break out of prison, making a beeline for his family, with the police in hot pursuit. The chase is on.

This being a non-Hollywood thriller, though, there are a few more layers to it than just, “cops chase crook for 90 minutes”. Adrien has left enemies behind in the prison, his former partners, who think he's busting out in order to grab their stashed loot. Then there are the gendarmes out in the world, who have him pegged for a series of brutal murders. Adrien has been framed for all that, and this fact is cleverly tied in with what causes him to jailbreak in the first place.

Of course, the audience knowing the truth is a far cry from the cops onscreen knowing the truth, so the longer Adrien runs and tries to make things right, the deeper a pit he digs himself into.

The action is visceral, with every punch to the face and fall from great height filmed in an unglamorous way that brings home the punishment to Adrien’s body. (Prison violence is something the French do very well. Ever see A Prophet? Oh, man.) Unlike, say, Bruce Willis in the increasingly ridiculous Die Hard movies, Albert Dupontel’s Adrien isn’t some sort of Superman able to take an endless amount of punishment. He’s a tough guy, sure, a genuinely tough guy; but he bleeds and bruises when punched or kicked, and he gets punched and kicked a lot.

You don’t really watch a movie like this for the character development, but there are some interesting narrative arcs going on. Adrien is pretty much turned up to 11 for the whole movie, but Alice Taglioni as hotshot police detective Claire Linné has a bit more to do as she hunts Adrien and gradually begins to work out that aren't as clear-cut as they seem. Stéphane Debac and Natacha Régnier provide capable support as the film’s stealth bad guys, whose story arc proves to be every bit as nail-biting as the main storyline.

There’s not a great deal more to it than that. The Preybounces along from one suspense-building setup to the next, erupting in a flurry of running, shooting, driving very fast, and occasionally falling from great heights. Then everyone regroups – good guys, bad guys, bad guys who are driven by noble motives, bad guys who are real monsters, good guys who just want to get this thing over with. A few minutes of conversation and a red herring or two, and we’re charging off again. It ain’t Citizen Kane, or for that matter Jean de Florette, but it’s not a bad way to while away 90 minutes of your time.

Leading man Dupontel does a good job with relatively little to work with here. The script asks him to do little besides play a tough guy who loves his family, and he does that capably enough. His craggy face, worn and haunted and perpetually wary, lends more depth to his character than another actor might have managed, and his flyaway hair is a nice touch, too. There are a couple moments of extreme emotion, and he delivers on those as well. It’s Dupontel’s movie from start to finish, and he proves himself worthy of it.

Cohen Media Group has distributed numerous other interesting "foreign" films recently, notably the German neo-Nazi drama Combat Girls, and they are to be commended for their series of unorthodox offerings. Bonus features on this particular blu-ray include a lengthy behind-the-scenes feature (which focuses primarily on the fight sequences), plus a substantial interview with director Eric Vallette. There’s also a fairly pointless eight-page leaflet with a few photos and very limited cast and crew listings.

Fans of action films who are open to a different look and style from the usual Hollywood bombast are encouraged to take a look.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image