Combustible Celluloid Review - Prey (2024), Mukunda Michael Dewil, Mukunda Michael Dewil, Ryan Phillippe, Emile Hirsch, Mena Suvari, Jeremy Tardy, Dylan Flashner, Tristan Thompson, Michaela Sasner
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With: Ryan Phillippe, Emile Hirsch, Mena Suvari, Jeremy Tardy, Dylan Flashner, Tristan Thompson, Michaela Sasner
Written by: Mukunda Michael Dewil
Directed by: Mukunda Michael Dewil
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 86
Date: 03/15/2024

Prey (2024)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Taking It Lion Down

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The best thing about Mukunda Michael Dewil's budget B-thriller Prey is its beautiful African nature footage, which seems to have come from a library; the human part of the story goes quickly and permanently off the rails.

A doctor, Andrew (Ryan Phillippe) and his missionary wife Sue (Mena Suvari) are donating their time and skills to help people in Africa. Unfortunately, they are threatened by a militant group and are forced to leave. They are taken to a plane along with three American tourists and their guide, Thabo (Jeremy Tardy).

The pilot, Grun (Emile Hirsch), is a mercenary sort who demands $10,000 for a seat, and won't allow the passengers to take any luggage. After thirty minutes in the air, the engines fail and the plane crashes, killing one of the tourists and injuring Sue. They realize that they are in the Nala Reserve, filled with dangerous predator animals, especially lions.

Grun, Thabo, and two tourists — Tyler (Dylan Flashner) and Max (Tristan Thompson) — strike out to find a nearby village, while Andrew remains behind to look after his wife. Unfortunately, there are many more challenges to be met — and a few miracles to be had — before any of them gets out alive.

Prey — not to be confused with Prey (2019) or Prey (2022) — uses a few silly techniques to match the animal footage with the human footage, notably POV shots of prowling lions and light-up eyes planted in the darkness. Actual attacks are not shown, only the bloody aftermath, riddled with claw marks.

The humans are either irritating, wealthy and entitled White Americans or our kindly missionaries, who spend most of the movie waiting for signs from above, rather than taking action. (Astonishingly, miracles do happen, including a well-placed bolt of lightning!) There's an attempt to find redemption for pilot Grun, but it's rushed and feels absurdly false. We get one kindly African character (guess what happens to him?) while other Africans are shown to be vindictive and violent.

In the end, the only takeaway from Prey that it wants to be a faith-based recruiting movie, and it doesn't make things seem very enticing.

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