In The Prey, Chinese cop Xin (newcomer Gu Shangwei) is undercover on a secret mission when a surprise raid overturns his plans. Captured and forced to fight to survive within a remote Cambodian jungle prison, Xin is surprised to find that he and several other prisoners have been released into the wild. However, ruthless warden (Vithaya Pansringarm) has other plans as he operates a secret underground game which involves selling prisoners as human prey for rich hunters looking for thrills in the jungle. Lost and on the run, Xin suddenly finds himself running for his life and must ask to what lengths he’s willing to go to survive.
Written and directed by Jimmy Henderson, The Prey takes a familiar tale and entertains through its commitment to the action. To its credit, while the film is far from subtle, it knows exactly what it wants to be and executes its story with enthusiasm. Loosely based on Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, The Prey builds the intensity well through its jungle locations, making the most of the claustrophobic nature of the area. Though the surroundings may be vast, Henderson does a solid job of keeping the set pieces tight and imposing. Moreover, in his first feature role, Gu Shangwei shows tremendous potential as an action star, playing to the role of Xin with severity (and some sincerity). In doing so, though it may lack in some areas, The Prey mostly earns its thrills through the vigour of its execution.
Doubling down on the action, The Prey may not be the type of film that wants to focus on heavy introspection. Even so, it does attempt to spark conversations about the limits of humanity and what separates us from our animal instincts. While we understand that the hunters are the villains in this piece, the hunted are not without their own demons to face as well. Running for their lives in the hot humidity of the jungle, Xin and the other prisoners who are released into the wild are forced to grapple with their own inner nature. Regardless of their previous crimes, each man must decide whether or not they are willing to kill their hunters in an effort to survive. (“I’m a thief, not a killer,” Xin’s friend recognizes.) Can one remain the hero if they’re willing to take on the role of the villain? As they attempt to justify their increasingly brutal acts of violence, Xin and his ‘friends’ must look into their souls to determine what it means to be human and, as a result, the very essence of true survival as well.
Energetic from start to finish, fans of the genre should be pleased with The Prey. Though the film could use more nuance and subtlety to bring it to the next level, the film certainly has enough action to entertain viewers who are looking for something with grit and teeth.
The Prey premieres on VOD on August 25th, 2020