Let me put this out there right off the bat: the 2011 French action-thriller The Prey (La proie) from Eric Valette (One Missed Call (2008)) bears a striking resemblance to The Fugitive (1993). You can tell as much from the trailer. But this is by no means a bad thing. In fact, if nothing else, the similarities make it easier to spot where Valette and his screenwriters were toying with this familiar model. And while their experimentation may not be 100% successful, there’s no denying that The Prey is one hell of a good time, boasting some terrific action sequences that Valette peppers in about 20 minutes apart to keep us riveted.
The film opens on incarcerated bank robber Franck Adrien (Irreversible’s Albert Dupontel) serving the last three months of his sentence. Believing his wife to have run off with the loot from the heist that landed him in prison, Franck breaks out of jail. Ultimately, though, he finds that his wife had not betrayed him and that she and his daughter had in fact been the targets of a serial killer and his wife, who’ve absconded with Franck’s daughter. With the law hot on his tail, Franck sets out across France in search of his daughter and, you guessed it, vengeance!
Sure, as in The Fugitive, Franck’s journey is indeed about clearing his name of crimes he did not commit, but only laterally. The real crux of the story is the hunt for his daughter, setting it apart from The Fugitive in a most substantive way. What’s more, the killer Jean-Louis’ methods of luring women to their deaths harkens back to The Vanishing (Spoorloos, 1988). Coupled with his otherwise unassuming appearance and pleasant demeanor, this makes Jean-Louis a far more threatening on-screen presence than the one-armed man, and the ideal foil for Franck, who succeeds when he does not because he’s particularly smart or charming, but because he takes chances. And that’s where the movie gets really exciting, as Franck discovers Jean-Louis’ traps, set to bring the law down on Franck hard. Franck responds the only way he knows how, by running, jumping and driving fast as hell.
The Prey may be occasionally convoluted in its narrative construction, replacing one villain or threat with another at the drop of a hat, and leaving us in the dark with regard to Franck’s motivations at times. Still, there’s no denying the appeal of a well-executed action sequence. And there is certainly no shortage of those in The Prey.
The Prey is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from the Cohen Media Group. Special features include an interview with Valette, a making-of featurette revealing the extent to which star Dupontel played a part in the creation/execution of the film’s action, and the theatrical trailer.