Judge Paul Pritchard was once hunted across a cold, desolate land. He's not been back to the Magic Kingdom since.
One Man. One Alien. One Choice.
Director Sandy Collora came to the attention of comic book geeks back in 2003, when his fan-film, Batman: Dead End, premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con before its release on the Internet. Shot for around $30,000, Batman: Dead End felt more authentic, and contained more imagination than at least three of the Batman movies released up to that point, and was followed in 2004 by the Batman/Superman team-up World's Finest.
Facts of the Case
When the spaceship Prometheus crashes on a barren planet, the surviving members of its crew are ordered to track down the prisoner they had been transporting. All that is known about the prisoner, named Jericho (Clark Bartram), is that he is deadly and the last of his kind.
One by one, Jericho takes out his captors until all that stands between him and freedom is Centauri 7 (Damion Poitier). With the clock ticking down until an extraction squad arrives, Centauri 7 must locate Jericho, ensuring that he captures the fugitive alive. But as Centauri 7 begins to question his orders, matters are complicated by the arrival of a bounty hunter who pursues Jericho for financial gain.
It's impossible to discuss Hunter Prey without judging it in terms of the progression shown by its writer/director Sandy Collora since he unleashed internet sensations Batman: Dead End on the world. As a fan of Collora's shorts, I found myself very much anticipating his feature length debut, but as much as I'd love to be able to say Hunter Prey sees Collora hurtling out of the gates, I find myself instead urging a little caution.
Anyone familiar with Collora's earlier works needs to temper their expectations immediately. For as good as Hunter Prey undoubtedly is, it simply doesn't deliver on the promise of Batman: Dead End. Where that short film revealed Collora as an imaginative storyteller, with a great eye for detail, Hunter Prey often feels rather generic, and as such must be considered a disappointment.
Collora's style of direction seems more interested in filling the screen with striking imagery than creating a compelling story. With one eye on Star Wars, Collora crafts a classic looking sci-fi that is sure to please those raised on genre favorites from the seventies and eighties. Unfortunately the story feels like an afterthought, and though the central premise is strong enough to build a movie around—with the film making a few surprise turns along the way—at times it edges perilously close to losing the viewer's interest, particularly during the labored second act. This anemic storyline, coupled with Collora and Damon's decision to kill off all but two of their cast within the opening 30 minutes, causes real pacing issues. The opening 15 minutes sets the film's tone nicely, and contains brief, but well-handled, bursts of action. Likewise, as the film draws to a close, the pacing picks up again. But large chunks of the film—around an hour—see the two leads scattered across a barren wasteland. Character interactions are severely limited during this period, which causes a major disconnect with the audience who are unable to really identify or root for either character. What saves Hunter Prey during these moments is the mood of the piece, which is undeniably captivating and ensures the film sticks in the mind long after the initial viewing has finished.
The two leads, Damion Poitier and Clark Bartram, are unlikely to win any awards for their performances, but are solid enough to carry the movie and deliver their lines with gusto. Collora, and co-writer Nick Damon, appear to have taken a leaf from Shane Black's book of macho dialogue. Neither Centauri 7 nor Jericho is the type to contemplate the deeper meanings of life, and so talk like the hardnosed S.O.B.'s they are. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Arnie or Stallone delivering lines like "I'm gonna hunt you down, and then I'm gonna kill you; that's my game," or perhaps, "I'm takin' you all to hell." The posturing of both characters is reminiscent of the interplay of the mercenaries in McTiernan's Predator; it's just a shame there isn't more of it here.
The costume and effects work employed in the film are excellent. Regardless of the film's budget—which by all accounts was extremely small—Hunter Prey looks the business. The soldiers, replete in Boba Fett inspired battle wear, are undeniably cool; the costume department should also be given a tip of the hat for the lived in look the soldiers' gear has. Armor has a convincing battle-damaged look, while the weaponry looks like it's seen plenty of action. The makeup work, which is a major part of the film, also impresses. Not only are the character designs well suited to the subject matter, they look amazing, with the bounty hunter being worthy of most praise.
The DVD contains a detail packed 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, with strong colors combining with a sharp image. The stunning scenery is truly brought to life, with only a few niggling flaws visible. The 5.1 soundtrack suffers early on from muffled dialogue-a direct result of its leads wearing helmets. However, once they are removed, dialogue is clear with the excellent score blasting from the speakers.
Sandy Collora kicks off the extras by providing an audio commentary that is both informative and interesting. The commentary acts as the perfect partner to the "making of" documentary, which offers an excellent insight into the film's production.
Hunter Prey could, and perhaps should, have been so much more. If only the pacing issues could have been resolved, we'd have a much stronger title on our hands. Perhaps Collora had problems making the jump to a full-length film, which I've no doubt will be addressed in future projects. Despite any negative comments made, I still had enough fun with Hunter Prey to recommend it. Fans of Enemy Mine and other eighties sci-fi should have a blast, and the production values are excellent.
Give it a rent.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Maya Entertainment
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