Film Review: The Prey (2011)
I run in my local park, usually about three or four times a week, all depending on what needs doing at home for my increasingly independent son. It’s not my most enjoyable activity of the week but I do it for a healthy heart and all that. Having seen Albert Dupontel at the ripe old age of 47 sprint along highways, leap off buildings and onto moving trains, I have to admit it has left me feeling a little inadequate.
Of course, Dupontel’s middle aged antics are the stuff of movie magic but he is the middle aged man dream in the mould of Leeson or Cruise – ready to fight to the death for his loved ones and absolutely fit as a fiddle.
He plays Franck, locked up for his part in an armed robbery, unlikely to trust anyone – even his wife – with the location details of the stashed stolen money . Unfortunately for him he shares a cell with Jean-Louis (Stéphane Debac) a man accused of assaulting a young girl. He can’t resist helping the guy out when the prison thugs come to visit, only complicating his life inside further before it turns out the charges against Jean-Louis are false and he is released.
He asks JL to visit his wife as a favour which becomes a huge worry when retired policeman Manuel (Sergi López – you will remember him as the evil stepdad in Pan’s Labyrinth) arrives in the prison to question Franck about Jean-Louis.
From here on in it becomes clear that his wife and child are in danger from a sly and dangerous man, so Franck seizes on an opportune moment to escape from prison and save his family. He is tracked throughout by a police force led by detective Linné (Alice Taglioni) who soon realises that this is not a simple jail break out.
It is classic French thriller stuff of recent years falling into line with recent favourites such as Anything for Her and Point Blank. What they had in droves was a fresh energy and ingenuity in the narrative which is sorely missed here.
Very quickly you will figure out where things are heading but that is not always a bad thing; not every film screams originality. What you do ask for as a foundation for any film is for the plot points to be executed well, so we can at least forget we have seen it all a thousand times before. As you can sense, The Prey doesn’t achieve that in most areas meaning it all becomes very flat, very quickly.
Dupontel himself is the saving grace with a captivating performance mostly held in those deep, bold brown eyes, showcasing a bewildered look as he scampers about on the run. He certainly has his running shoes on from start to finish although we learn very little about him as a man which makes it hard to care for his cause.
A five man stand off finale at a cliffs edge is sloppily played out as if they had forgotten how they got there in the first place, before a small twist is flattened with a trite send off. If you are looking for a hot new thriller from the French isles or approaching their take on the genre for the first time, The Prey is not worth the hunt.
Director: Eric Valette
Production co: Brio Films, Studio Canal, TF1 Films Production
Cinema release date: 13th July 2012