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Overall Rating
3.86

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look85.71%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating


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Prey, The (2013)
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by Jay Seaver

"Le fugitif."
4 stars

"The Prey" isn't a big summer blockbuster by American standards; for all I know, it wasn't a big deal when it played its native France as "La Proie" two years before its American release. It is a lean, mean, no-messing-around entry in the genre, and if you're not averse to people speaking French as they play a nifty game of cat-and-mouse, it's well worth checking to see if it popped up in your area.

Franck Adrien (Albert Dupontel) is in prison for bank robbery, and does not have many friends there: One of his partners-in-crime, Novick (Olivier Schneider), would really like to know where Franck hid the money; his cellmate Jean-Louis Maurel (Stéphane Debac) is in on molestation charges and his claims of innocence (backed up by his accuser recanting her testimony) give a bunch of prisoners and guards who want him beat to a pulp no compunctions about going through Franck to do it, as they don't like his attitude anyway. He does have a beautiful wife (Caterina Murino) and daughter (Jaïa Caltagirone) waiting for him on the outside, and has Maurel pass them a message on his release - which may not have been a good idea according to an obsessed detective (Sergi López). When Franck can't get Anna on the phone, he escapes, and the gendarmes put a crack team led by Claire Linné (Alice Taglioni) on his tail.

There are crime movies that are about examining the complexities of seemingly amoral characters who live by their own code, and there are ones where the characters are who they are in order to get the audience from confrontation to trap and back again. The Prey is unequivocally in the latter category; writers Laurent Turner & Luc Bossi and director Eric Valette don't quite feed one action scene straight into another, but while things will sometimes decelerate just enough for the characters to plot their next move, it almost never shows down enough for actual introspection. That can sometimes be looked at as a weakness, but it works here, in large part because Turner & Bossi have come up with a villainous master plan that is genuinely diabolical without getting stretched to the breaking point by the finale. Part of this is because they don't overcomplicate things, allowing characters to be opportunistic rather than anticipating specific details; part is just that French guys are not inclined to have something come out of nowhere to force them to pull their punches.

Valette, then, is in charge of taking this clever but streamlined scenario and running through it in such an efficient manner that the story's occasional flaws get smoothed over. Consider how he gets the pacing just right, especially in the prison-based first act: There's just enough well-timed eruptions of violence to keep how the filmmakers are giving Franck justification for being cynical from being front-and-center and also mute the fact that they're dropping a fair amount of exposition, and just as the audience is ready for things to switch up, they switch up with a vengeance. That continues through the movie - Valette and company will let the audience get just a little fidgety and maybe even unimpressed, and then throw a stunt or action sequence that opens their eyes in a bit of surprise at them. A little too much may be piled on at the end, but it beats the heck out of an actual fizzle.

Valette and his action team know what they're doing - fight choreographer Olivier Schneider, in addition to playing Franck's unhappy accomplice here, also had the same job on Taken and Fast & Furious 6. There's a number of close-quarters fights that are both hard-hitting and admirably easy to follow, a literal cliff-hanger, and some impressive stuntwork. They attack familiar scenes like running through traffic or jumping on and off a moving train with enough creativity that they have the ability to surprise. It's a lot of fun, and when the filmmakers decide to escalate, it sometimes feels a bit over-the-top, but it's also fun.

As mentioned, this is a rather plot-focused movie, so while it features a solid cast, they aren't playing the most fleshed-out characters. Stéphane Debac, for instance, really doesn't dive into his heel-turn - he's a mutedly scummy predator - meaning Natacha Régnier is often more interesting as the woman who is married to him. Still, it's not hard to enjoy the other two main players: Albert Dupontel's Franck is a weathered, gruff survivor, and he does a great job of making us recognize that even when he's coming out on top of three younger attackers, it's as much because he can take a beating as because he's a sleeping beast. He's furious, sure, but not a force of nature. And I love how Alice Taglioni plays Claire; even though we're first introduced to her as being beautiful enough to serve as bait in a plan to capture a gangster as opposed to being the team leader, her confidence and capability asserts itself very quickly, so that when she stares at her boss for an extra half-second after every time he uses the phrase "feminine intuition", the audience is rolling its eyes on her behalf.

It comes together quite nicely, though not in an overwhelming each-set-piece-bigger-than-the-last way. No, it's about a hundred minutes of moving forward at a quick pace, pitting three clever people against each other and making the viewer anxious for whatever happens next. Unlike a lot of other things in the multiplex this season, it's exciting without wearing the audience out.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25234&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/09/13 16:05:32
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User Comments

6/11/13 Louis Blyskal Just ok 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Jun-2013 (R)
  DVD: 21-Jan-2014

UK
  13-Jul-2012 (15)

Australia
  07-Jun-2013




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