J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Prey: The French Fugitive

Franck Adrien is not exactly a touchy feely kind of guy, but he’s still a better father than Will Smith in After Earth, even if he is behind bars.  However, he must break out of prison to protect his family from the serial killer who recently shared his cell in Eric Valette’s The Prey (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Adrien took the fall for his last heist, but not before he squirreled away the loot.  He will not say where, not even when his wife Anna asks.  His accomplices ask too, but not so nicely.  Of course, Adrien can handle a prison beatdown.  Unfortunately, he is incapable of walking away from a fight.  When the guards allow a gang of toughs to administer some frontier justice to Adrien’s cellmate, he intercedes in spite of himself.  This leads to a mistaken bonding moment.  Unfortunately, Adrien realizes just how bad Jean-Louis Maurel truly is soon after he is released on a technicality.

Even though his sentence is nearly up, Adrien must escape for his family’s sake.  Already a fugitive, Maurel raises the stakes for his Adrien by framing him for some of his past murders.  The detective charged with apprehending him, the ambitious Claire Linné, has a sense something is wrong with the picture, but all her colleagues are idiots.  Adrien finds only one ally, Carrega, the obsessive ex-cop who could never make a case stick against Maurel.

As Adrien, Albert Dupontel gives one of the most hard-nosed, unabashedly masculine performances of the decade.  His work has a visceral physicality that allows almost no room for verbalizing.  Indeed, his character cannot even seem to growl “I didn’t do it, flic” at Linné.  It’s actually quite impressive to behold.  This film could never be remade with Robert Pattinson or Leonardo DiCaprio, though Heaven help him, Martin Scorsese might try anyway.

Alice Taglioni’s Linné looks pretty credible in her action sequences too, which is a cool bit of fair play.  She also invests her character with refreshing intelligence and professionalism.  You want her on the case, but not so much Zinedine Soualem as her dumb copper boss.  Sergi López adds some nicely rumpled world weariness as Carrega.  As a bonus, there is also Zen’s Caterina Murino in the rather thankless role of Anna Adrien.

Valette stages some nifty fight scenes (Adrien’s prison escape is a particular dozy) and capitalizes on some picturesque backdrops.  Tightly paced, The Prey delivers gritty action with an art house luster and a distinctly French sensibility.  It should well please genre fans and Francophiles alike when it opens this Friday (6/7) in New York at the AMC Empire.

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