Writers: Edward Drake and Corey Large
Director: Edward Drake
It is the future….
Not the fully immersive future of something like Blade Runner which can only be conjured up with a decent budget. No, this is a cheaper future where some of the technology is advanced and everything else is made to look futuristic with colourful lighting.
This is a future where the rich hunt the ultimate prey: man. A future where the existence of Richard Connell’s 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game is not acknowledged, and any resemblance to The Hunger Games is purely coincidental.
And a future where Bruce Willis can look bored and disengaged while waiting for his cheque to clear.
Apex Predator drops Willis’s Thomas Malone onto an island exclusively used by the rich to hunt humans. He is the prey and five hunters are out to bag their trophy. Malone we are told is an ex-cop with a chequered past and a knack for survival (cue a few amusing oblique references to much better Willis films). We are told that he is the ultimate target and that the hunters should not at all underestimate him. He is most definitely not an old man who stumbles around the forest looking tired and like he wants to be anywhere but there – even if that is how he often comes across to the viewer.
Willis has carved quite a career recently out of appearing in featured roles in low-budget “direct to video” movies where he invariably looks disinterested in whatever he is given to do. To be fair this movie sees Willis seeming to try a little harder than usual and even managing to get a few laughs (ok, smiles) from his delivery of some of the weak jokes and clunky dialogue he has. “Wow, you’re good” says an admiring hunter who Willis has just bested. His response: “I’m better than good. I’m bacon and eggs on a Sunday morning”. Another scene sees Willis finding a human skull and holding it aloft Hamlet-like to deliver the zinger “To f*** s*** up, or not”. More of this sort of stupidity would actually be very welcome, and if the filmmakers had buried the needle in the direction of broad comedy, this film could have been pretty great.
As with almost every film Bruce Willis has made in the last five years, it is clear that he was on set for a very short space of time – just long enough to enjoy craft services and to grab his paycheque. You can literally count on one hand how many times he actually appears in a shot with another actor. He is either alone or talking to someone off-camera, and in a prolonged action sequence near the end the camera either avoids his face or pulls focus to obscure it. His stand-in should get higher billing than him.
The majority of the film follows the hunters as they turn against each other, and the rest of the cast range from fine to awful. Top-billed Neal McDonough plays cold-hearted extremely well and uses those piercing blue eyes to good effect, Nels Lennarson gives a lot of energy to his portrayal of a booby-trap expert while sporting a pointless Oirish accent, and Alexia Fast convincingly plays a hologram by delivering a completely two-dimensional performance. Meanwhile co-writer Corey Large plays a small role, simultaneously proving that he is not very good at either of these two things.
Edward Drake’s direction is all wobbly camera which becomes frustrating very quickly, and although the choice to set the entire thing in daylight allows us to see everything happening, it robs the film of almost all potential atmosphere and tension.
Apex Predator is predictable, by-the-numbers, cheap-looking and badly written. But it is also undeniably fun, moves at a decent pace and should be praised at least for showing more effort than most of these sort of films, even if it doesn’t go far enough. Go in with appropriate expectations and you may just find yourself having a good time.
Signature Entertainment presents Apex Predator on Digital Platforms 12th November and DVD 15th November