Film Review: ‘The Prey’

Anchored by Albert Dupontel's impressive turn, this giddily implausible crime yarn barrels ahead with a propulsive sense of energy.

Albert Dupontel, Alice Taglioni, Stephane Debac, Natacha Regnier, Serge Hazanavicius, Zinedine Soualem, Sergi Lopez, Caterina Murino, Lucien Jean-Baptiste, Jaia Caltagirone.

The ironies keep piling up alongside the dead bodies in the pacey and preposterous man-on-the-run thriller “The Prey.” Gallic helmer Eric Valette (“State Affairs”) invests this giddily implausible crime yarn with a propulsive sense of energy, much of it derived from Albert Dupontel’s impressively physical turn as a bank robber whose escape from prison sets off an unpredictable whirlwind of violent mayhem. A 2011 French release making a belated Stateside bow, the film seems unlikely to travel much farther but could snare quite a few fans as a vigorous VOD item; remake potential is considerable.

“I don’t do trust,” Franck Adrien (Dupontel) says more than once, and it serves not only as a handy bit of character description but a clue as to how to watch “The Prey.” Almost every character in this harrowing story — good, bad or somewhere in between — has at least one occasion to hide the truth of who they really are, and much of the film’s tension derives from the audience’s awareness of these identities even as most of the characters remain ignorant.

Laurent Turner and Luc Bossi’s script gets its hooks in almost immediately, establishing a taut scenario in which the viewer’s sympathies are deftly established and manipulated. Franck, about to be released from prison, is eager to return home to his wife (Caterina Murino), their young daughter (Jaia Caltagirone) and the stolen loot he’s kept carefully stashed away for years. But Franck sets himself back several months when he heroically intervenes and saves his shy, nebbishy cellmate, Maurel (Stephane Debac), from being brutally beaten by other inmates and corrupt guards. It’s a decision he will come to regret for more reasons than one; Franck soon realizes his family is in terrible danger on the outside and, taking advantage of another vicious attack, he manages to escape.

Assigned to track him down is Claire (Alice Taglioni), a smart but fresh-faced detective who relies on her “feminine intuition” and sometimes has difficulty pulling the trigger, attracting much condescension from her superior officer that will, of course, be redeemed by the closing reels. A trail of corpses and other pieces of evidence raise the suspicion that Franck is not just a bank robber, but a serial killer terrorizing young women in the scenic Alpes-Maritime region (where much of the film was shot). Also figuring into the hunt is an ex-gendarme (the dependable Sergi Lopez) with a highly personal stake in catching the murderer.

Relying heavily on lurid contrivances, sneaky narrative reversals and plot grabs from any number of other cop thrillers, “The Prey” — whose title changes meanings with alarming regularity — is an absurdly gripping experience, achieving an ideal balance of crafty storytelling and fleet, unfussy direction. Not unlike its fugitive protagonist, the picture moves so swiftly that the viewer scarcely has time to pause, much less object, and Valette demonstrates a real flair for staging straight-up, no-nonsense setpieces and keeping them coming steadily over the course of 105 minutes.

Playing the victim of a classic Hitchcockian wrong-man scenario, Dupontel is terrific as the sort of improbable middle-aged action hero who, using decisive actions and few words, gets the viewer on his side immediately. While Franck is not averse to hurling himself out windows or leaping onto moving trains in this parkour-lite entertainment, he sustains more than a few wounds along the way, adding a necessary shot of realism to the proceedings. Other performances are fine across the board, particularly Natacha Regnier’s gentle, unobtrusive turn as Maurel’s wife, which perhaps most ingeniously embodies the film’s implicit “trust no one” directive.

Technically, the film is aided considerably by Vincent Mathias’ capable widescreen lensing of a little-seen French region, particularly a hedge-lined suburban neighborhood that offers ample opportunities for concealment and pursuit. Noko’s score adds memorably to the film’s sense of gathering momentum.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'The Prey'

Reviewed online, Pasadena, Calif., June 7, 2013. Running time: 105 MIN. Original title: “La Proie”

Production: (France) A Cohen Media Group (in U.S.) release of a Brio Films and Studiocanal presentation of a Brio Films, Studiocanal, TF1 Films Prod. co-production, in association with Cinemage 5, A Plus Image 2, La Banque Postale Image 4 and La Banque Populaire Images 11, with the participation of Canal Plus and Cinecinema, with the support of Region Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur and Department des Alpes Maritimes. Produced by Luc Bossi.

Crew: Directed by Eric Valette. Screenplay, Laurent Turner, Luc Bossi. Camera (color, widescreen), Vincent Mathias; editors, Fabrice Rouaud, Christophe Pinel; music, Noko; production designer, Bertrand Seitz; costume designer, Fabienne Katany; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Didier Codoul, Pascal Villard, Cyril Holtz, Philippe Amoroux; visual effects supervisors, Francois Ferracci, Laurens Ehrmann; assistant director, Jean-Andre Silvestro; casting, Valette.

With: Albert Dupontel, Alice Taglioni, Stephane Debac, Natacha Regnier, Serge Hazanavicius, Zinedine Soualem, Sergi Lopez, Caterina Murino, Lucien Jean-Baptiste, Jaia Caltagirone.

More Film

  • Inside an Inox Leisure multiplex in

    India's Inox Multiplex Chain Reveals Ambitious Growth Plans

    Indian multiplex chain Inox Leisure has revealed ambitious plans to more than double its existing screen capacity of 600. The company is planning to add 900 more screens across the country over the next decade. “That’s the realistic answer, but my desire is to do it over the next five years,” Siddharth Jain, director, Inox [...]

  • Joker

    Why 'Joker' Is About All of Us (Column)

    Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Rules International Box Office With $117 Million

    Though Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stumbled at the domestic box office, the Angelina Jolie-led sequel enjoyed a far stronger start overseas. The follow-up to 2014’s fantasy adventure inspired by the “Sleeping Beauty” villain took off with $117 million from 56 international markets. In North America, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted with a meager $36 [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Dominates With Soft $36 Million

    Five years after Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts. Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s fantasy adventure based on the “Sleeping Beauty” sorceress, flew lower than the original and debuted to a disappointing $36 million from 2,790 [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Film Republic Adds Further Sales for

    Film Republic Inks Further Deals for 'God of the Piano' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sales agent Film Republic has closed further territory sales on “God of the Piano.” Film Movement previously picked up North American rights to the film, as reported exclusively by Variety. Mont Blanc Cinema has taken the rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Limelight Distribution is looking after the Australian and New Zealand releases, Hualu [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content