Apex (USA, 2021)

The hunters of this game find themselves a prey in the form of Bruce Willis in this futuristic action thriller from the writers behind another Willis vehicle, Breach.

Thomas Malone is an ex-cop who is given a chance for freedom while serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. However, there is a catch. He must evade a group of people who hunt others for sport. The number one hunter in an area is Dr. Samuel Rainsford, who has a career helping others. However, he takes pleasure in hunting others for the sport of it and doesn’t care who the target is, as long as he is the number one.

For this hunt, Rainsford is joined by fellow hunters Carrion, Lyle, Bishop, Jeza, and Ecka. Malone decides to accept becoming the hunted. Malone is guided by the holographic West Jazoff, the one who offers him his chance to be free. However, as the hunt begins, tensions soon begin to mount between the hunters themselves. Soon enough, Malone isn’t the only prey for this hunt as the hunters soon become each other’s prey. Who will survive and what will be left of Malone when it is all said and done?

It seems as when it comes to certain filmmakers, Bruce Willis is willing to go above and beyond. In this case, he seems to have a sense of comfort when it comes to the team of Australian-born Edward Drake and Canadian filmmaker and actor Corey Large. Drake and Willis have worked with each other on films such as Cosmic Sin and Breach (which Drake wrote, and John Suits directed) with this film being their third collaboration (with two more currently in post).

This one is quite an interesting take on the classic Most Dangerous Game, in which hapless victims are forced to be “hunted” by the elite for sport. Neal McDonough is born to play villains perhaps due to his icy blue eyes and ability to play evil whether physical or emotional. Here, he plays a double entendre in the role of Dr. Rainsford, the number one hunter who thrives on taking lives while he spends his career saving life. As for Willis, he takes on the role of ex-cop turned prisoner Thomas Malone, who is given a chance for freedom when he accepts to become the “prey” for Rainsford and the motley crew of “hunters”.

Two of the other hunters who really stand out are Carrion, played by co-writer Corey Large; and Bishop, played by Nels Lennarson. The former seems to question himself at times as to why he is hunting while the latter is a vicious biker-type, similar to Rainsford in terms of having that breath of pleasure when it comes to hunting. However, while Rainsford is more of a calculating and smart-thinking type, Bishop is more methodical and goes for the jugular when it calls out for it. Lochlyn Munro’s Lyle, Megan Peta Hill’s Jeza, and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s son Trevor’s Ecka rounds out the hunters.

The film plays out more of a psychological cat-and-mouse game between Willis and the hunters rather than a straightforward action film. The action is a bit sporadic but relies more on the psyche. This is not normally done in this brand of genre, where many will be used to seeing more action than go into psychological mode. And that may be a ho-hum to most action fans. However, it does work out and the rivalry between Willis and McDonough comes to a head in a most satisfying way.

Apex takes the “hunter vs. prey” riff and brings something fresh to mind. Bruce Willis makes the most of his role while Neal McDonough once again shows why he is born to play villains with this excellent role.

WFG RATING: B

RLJE Films presents a 308 Entertainment production in association with Bondit Media Capital. Buffalo 8, Head Gear Film, Kreo Films FZ, and Metrol Technology. Director: Edward Drake. Producers: Corey Large and Sean Patrick O’Reilly. Writers: Edward Drake and Corey Large. Cinematography: Wai Sun Cheng. Editing: Justin Williams.

Cast: Bruce Willis, Neal McDonough, Corey Large, Nels Lennarson, Lochlyn Munro, Megan Peta Hill, Trevor Gretzsky, Alexia Fast.

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