Welcome back to Project Terrible! Today's movie comes to us from Michele of The Girl Who Loves Horror.
What an absolute piece of crap this was.
I'm not putting any more pictures in this review. I'm not doing it. You know why? Because pictures might make this look remotely interesting, because I'd try to find a funny moment or two to make you go "huh?" and then you'd want to watch it, because you love bad movies. And then you would watch it, and you'd be really mad you wasted an hour and twenty-eight minutes of your life, like I am, and I'd be sad for you. So I'm sparing us both the emotional anguish. You'll thank me.
Deadly Prey is a 1988 film based (loosely) on the story The Most Dangerous Game, which has provided the source material for quite a number of films by now. For instance, Hard Target, the John Woo-directed Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that features Cajun Wilford Brimley taking mercs down with a bow and arrow. I love that movie. It's basic plot-wise, but awesome, and I love it.
I do not love this movie.
So here's the plot of Deadly Prey, such as it is. An evil mercenary named Hogan (not Hulk, sadly) is training his troops in a military camp in the woods outside a US city. He's doing this at the behest of a financier whose name I don't recall, so let's call him Business Guy. He's training his troops by kidnapping random people from the city and having the troops hunt them, because hunting people with no combat experience is the best possible training for combat, far better than wargames or live fire exercises like the military uses. One rather rotund fellow manages to take down one of his guys (and not take his gun, angering me immediately) before being killed, so Hogan orders his second-in-command, Martial Arts Dude, to go find a meaner, tougher runner for them.
Because when your troops are being wasted by panicky, out-of-shape civilians, they'll definitely do better against a dangerous man who's willing to fight. Is he trying to lose his entire army?
So, the troops go kidnap Our Hero, start the chase, and...the predictable happens for the rest of the movie. There is pretty much zero plot after this point. The film doesn't even pretend to have one. There are long stretches where there's no dialog at all. Just guys running through the forest, Our Hero killing them off, then getting captured, killing more guys, his wife's kidnapped, kill more guys, ally shows up, kill more guys...end.
This is a terrible action movie. I would hate this even if the action were good (which it isn't). You really have to do more than this. This is basically the movie form of an 80s military action game, the kind that only show you any story in the instruction manual or maybe with a brief opening text scrawl. Or, heck, you know what? It's like Double Dragon--the game opens with thugs walking up, slugging the girlfriend in the gut, and carting her off...martial arts action for the rest of the game with no trace of any further plot. You basically just get the opening, then stages and bosses, kill kill kill. That's what this is like.
(Worth noting that unlike most news media, I don't think all or even most video games are like that. :-P)
The acting is abysmal. Almost everyone in the film is utterly wooden, showing only trace amounts of emotion. Our Hero can only manage grunts and a kind of quiet angry growl for most of the film, and in parts of the film where he's supposed to be unhinged and scary, he just seems laughable. Our Hero's Wife is utterly passive and doesn't do anything but cry in a manner not unlike a little girl whose dolly just broke, never really selling the sheer emotional impact of things she's supposedly going through (heck, she's actually raped at one point and just kind of gets a little weepy later, which seems to really undersell the sheer horror of what just happened). The various mercenaries exist only to be slaughtered and don't have any character at all (nor does Our Hero, really). Not everyone's absolutely awful, I guess: Hogan's okay, but never seems like a capable commander at all (though part of that's the plot utterly undermining him). Cameron Mitchell shows up as Our Hero's Father-in-Law, and is capable of putting some emotion into his delivery, but he's barely in the movie and pretty inconsequential (and I say that despite him taking out a villain, because said villain really didn't matter to the movie).
There are plotholes galore, not least of which is why the hell the bad guys are going with such a stupid plan. Seriously, to state this again, they're training the army by kidnapping people off city streets, just kind of at random, in broad daylight no less, one at a time, for the army to chase and kill in something that in no way remotely resembles a combat situation. This entire premise is stupid as hell. Look, here's the thing. Hard Target did a similar concept, but in Hard Target the people kidnapped were homeless people without any known connections. The bad guys did their best to make sure nobody would look for the people they took. And when they screwed up and took someone that did have connections, it became their undoing, as that's what starts off the movie's plot and eventually leads to Van Damme kicking their butts.
In this? No, evidently they've been taking people in broad daylight with witnesses nearby and no one has even heard that something like this is going on at all.
Not to mention, again, your idea here is that you are going to train your army to be better soldiers by having them kill people that don't have the skill to fight back. It's no wonder they get slaughtered when Our Hero goes up against them. They didn't learn how to be better soldiers, they forgot how to fight at all!
And how about Cameron Mitchell's character? He's first called in by his daughter when Our Hero is kidnapped (she calls her retired cop dad before calling the active police, and waits until he drives over to tell him the story...sheesh, girl, call the active cops too! Get things moving faster!), and promises he'll call in some favors at the department...only to show up alone at the camp, with no sign of the investigation or anything, and no help whatsoever. Guess they hand you that gold watch and toss you out the door, huh? Then he kills Business Guy after the movie's only emotional speech (which is, unfortunately, still ill-fitting as it's this sudden lengthy speech about the big guys always winning and the little guy getting crushed but now the little guy will rise up and the big guy will lose and...it sounds like he's about to start a communist manifesto or something). Then he's captured somehow and killed. Seeya, Captain Santa Claus.
I can't even tell you how boring this was. This film is 90% shots of guys wandering in a forest and getting killed by really amateurish action hero moves. This is the kind of film you'd make if you and your buddies had an afternoon and didn't really choreograph much of anything. It's all so slow, fake, and goofy. Heck, there are multiple fight scenes consisting of one guy punching the other in the face over and over until the other guy finally just kind of remembers to hit him instead, and then it's his turn to get hit over and over until he figures out where the attack button is again. It's like watching an infant play Street Fighter against another infant...if they also trade off taking naps in the middle of the game.
Our Hero's ability level widely varies, too--most of the film he's just utterly demolishing people, but then sometimes he's the guy getting punched over and over. Against Martial Arts Dude the first time, he doesn't get a single offensive move in, just getting kicked time and time again and knocked out. It makes him look horribly weak, despite all the destruction he's been responsible for, because he can't put up the slightest bit of a fight against this guy. And despite that, Hogan says Our Hero's better than any of his men.
It doesn't stop there! There's a point where Our Hero is captured by Hogan, and Hogan does the whole "I want you to join me" speech, which is of course refused. Our Hero tells him point-blank that he's going to kill him, and Hogan just kind of leaves him to think it over, like he'll change his mind after an hour or two. (Quick note: Hogan is evidently such an inept commander that he didn't realize just who his men had kidnapped until after the hunt had started.)
And there's more! There's a wonderful scene where Our Hero meets Our Hero's Ally, who is working for Hogan but has a secret heart of gold. They're old friends from the military, so they don't realize who each other is until they've choked each other face to face for several long moments. Neither man is wearing a mask or any facepaint.
Want more? Well, there's one more major thing I can discuss, but spoiler warnings apply until the conclusion now.
So here's the ending bit: predictably, it all comes down to a hunt in the woods (actually like the fifth hunt in the woods in the movie, or more, probably, depending on how you count the various waves of troops sent in the film's first part...this film only has one trick). Hogan and Martial Arts Dude take their men and go hunting for Our Hero, Our Hero's Wife, and Our Hero's Ally. Again. Have I mentioned this film was way, way longer than it's content merited? Because it was.
Our Hero stashes his wife someplace safe and he and Our Hero's Ally go on a killing spree on the bad guys, or rather, the traps Our Hero set up earlier take out most of them. Then there's an amazing gun battle where mostly nobody gets hit despite no one ever taking cover and rapid fire weapons being used by most parties. Then Our Hero's Ally gives Our Hero his rocket launcher (which, not kidding, I'm pretty sure Our Hero pulled out of a cabinet in his house along with other military gear earlier in the film--I'm pretty sure they don't let you take rocket launchers home!) and he blows up the entire remaining enemy army except Hogan and Martial Arts Dude.
Martial Arts Dude kidnaps Our Hero's Wife...again, and Hogan takes her hostage and threatens to kill her if Our Hero doesn't surrender...again. Our Hero's Ally saves her, only to be killed by Martial Arts Dude. Then Our Hero's wife is killed by Martial Arts Dude too because Our Hero is suddenly like 8 miles further away than he's apparently been for the rest of the sequence.
This could actually have had some emotional impact, so it is immediately spoiled by Our Hero cutting off Martial Arts Dude's arm and beating him to death with it, which cannot be taken seriously.
See, now you want to watch the movie, don't you. Keep in mind that's basically the ONLY HILARIOUSLY BAD SCENE in an entire well of utter boredom, and it lasts like five, ten seconds, tops.
Then he scalps Martial Arts Dude, because...why not?
The movie ends with him finding Hogan, telling him to take his shirt and shoes off, and then telling him to run, implying that he'll get his revenge by hunting Hogan the way Hogan was having people hunted.
So here's the thing. That could actually be a good sendup of the action hero movie...if the rest of the film were better (and the "beaten to death with his own arm" were replaced by some other less silly violent beating/stabbing or something like that). In this? It's just the last straw from an already annoying and very boring film. You can't make an utterly stock action film that doesn't even have a plot and then suddenly try to do a dark twist ending where the hero doesn't manage to save the girl! It's a waste of a concept. You can't make me care about these characters when they have no personalities. This is basically the same thing as asking me to care if you make a movie where you wave a few cardboard cutouts around for a while and then set one of them on fire with a blowtorch. There's absolutely no reason to get emotionally invested here, so don't do a scene that requires me to have been emotionally invested!
I don't really have much more to say. This was abysmal. One of the worst action films I've ever seen, managing no part whatsoever properly. It felt like it was in its ending sequence from the first moment they started hunting Our Hero, and yet it continued for another hour and twenty minutes or so. There's no plot, no characters, no decent action...there's not even more than one remotely funny moment. Awful, awful, awful horrible crap.