It’s a holiday in Cambodia
It’s tough, kid, but it’s life
It’s a holiday in Cambodia
Don’t forget to pack a wife
Opening this month (August 21, Dark Star Pictures) on all the popular streaming fronts is the Cambodian manhunt flick The Prey—a movie that has an incredible international width, and a laser focus on the trusted tropes of the genre.
We have a production in which the characters slip easily between speaking Khmer, Thai, Chinese and even—shudder—English, thereby putting the “poly” firmly back into the “glot.” It is at this moment that someone is probably blaming American public schools for being so bad that they can’t even graduate kids with enough Spanish to order off the the Chipotle menu, while the youth of Asia seem to have Google Translate installed in their brains.
But while we can’t match Cambodia in language skills, one of the things we can lord over them is our near monopoly on producing new action picture classics. Tarantino has indeed delivered our product to every nook and cranny on the globe.
And it certainly shows with movies like The Prey. This is a film that has been directed with a surprisingly steady Spielbergian hand by self taught Italian-living-in-the-UK filmmaker Jimmy Henderson. He is just the sort of man who instead of following his father into the coal mines, has taken his love of American shoot-’em-up films and parlayed it straight into the top ranks of the Cambodian film industry.
Henderson is a director of firsts: the first Cambodian Zombie movie—which unfortunately had the piss taken out of it by Korea’s first zombie period drama, the Netflix hit comedy Kingdom…then came all the accolades from delivering the first multi-million dollar grossing Cambodian film, Jailbreak…which was also the first Cambodian film to get picked up by Netflix.
With his new project, he has taken a page out of the Disney playbook, and found himself one of those great “public domain” properties, thus freeing up some capital for extra explosions, more staccato rounds of machine gun fire, and business casual outfits straight out of a contemporary British sporting catalog.
We are speaking of none other than Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game, which has served as the basis of countless “man hunting man” cinematic creations over the last hundred million years: to wit, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, and of course that famous Star Trek episode where Kirk kisses Uhura. And who could forget last year’s entry The Hunt? A movie which gleefully turned the historical tables by having the “liberal elites” hunt Trump voter types for sport.
So just when you thought the tale of men hunting men (or kids hunting kids or women hunting Trumpies) could be taken no further, the sure-to-be-a-hit Cambodian bloodbath The Prey will decisively add to the pile of dead bodies.
We find Chinese undercover cop / international super spy Xin, played by Chinese martial arts expert Gu Shangwei, on a secret mission—the kind that in the real world would be setting off all kinds of shoe pounding at the UN. A surprise raid puts him in a remote Cambodian jungle prison, where the warden (Vithaya Pansringarm of Only God Forgives) is trying to make some extra scratch to augment his meager public worker pension by selling prisoners as human prey for rich hunters looking for thrills.
Fortunately there seems to be an endless supply of the nattily dressed idle rich, whose only wish is to experience the thrill of stalking and killing another human being.
Luckily for those working this genre, there also seems to be an endless army of pony-tailed and man-bunned villains straight out of central casting. Their mothers no doubt never miss an opportunity to remind them that should never have dropped out of pharmacy school.
The concentration on narrative somewhat gives way about halfway through, as the film lets fly with all-out, highly-charged, highly-stylized classic pulp action/suspense times a hundred. The blood flows like whiskey down the middle of an Irish street, and damsels are fittingly distressed. It’s also a visual feast, as every-time our protagonist Xin gets launched into another battle, it’s as if choreographer Jean-Paul Ly has made each fight scene into a mini Ballet Mécanique.
Ultimately one has to admire Jimmy Henderson’s considerable ability to know exactly which way the wind is blowing in order to get the most dramatic shot of blood splattering on the most pristine of white shirts. He, veritably, nails it.
As to whether The Prey is your kind of jam is probably dependent on your ability to handle Kill Bill / Red Dead Redemption levels of matter-of-fact carnage. If so, you and your steely constitution will leave the virtual theater jacked with a week’s worth of adrenaline. At least.