Thursday 6 October 2022

[Film Review] Death Hunt

Director: Neil Mackay
Writers; Neil Mackay and Sean McAulay
Stars; Marlene Malcolm, Omar Tucci, Rick Amesbury, Terry McDonald, Greg Johnston

A couple's getaway retreat turns into a nightmare when they are kidnapped by three local hunters. Deposited on to a remote island with no means of escape the couple tap into their survival instincts to stay alive. The hunters think it's just another day on their makeshift game reserve but soon get more than they bargained for in this action packed survival thriller. 


If the plot to 'Death Hunt' sounds all too familiar perhaps it's because we've seen this unfurl a 100 times before. From recent Blumhouse production 'The Hunt' all the way back to 'The Hunger Games' saga, Kinji Fukasaku's cult classic 'Battle Royale', 'Surviving The Game' directed by Ernest Dickerson, John Woo's explosive hit 'Hard Target' all the way to 1932 where it all started with the RKO classic 'The Most Dangerous Game' featuring a pre 'King Kong' Fay Wray. Such is the popularity of this narrative that the original film has been remade as a VOD movie of the week and a television series. With so much quality films in the action sub-genre to choose from writer and director Neil Mackay presents his take on a vintage theme. The result is a fairly above average thriller, which though somewhat predictable, makes for an entertaining and enjoyable ride. 

The film is so predictable if you were to turn watching it into a drinking game, downing shots on noticing repeated troupes you're likely to end up dead. Remote hunting location check; gun wielding sociopaths, check; dubious excuse to hunt humans for sport, check; and the list goes on. Mackay make this more of an interesting tale first off setting in the Bill Clinton era America. The politics of the day is reflected in the lead players though thankfully little time is spent exploring this in too much detail. MacKay chose to dispense with the usual traits opting instead for more down to earth characters rooted in cliched real life - out of work townsfolk angry at the government for the state of their local economy, shrewd businessmen, forbidden love and extra marital affairs. There are no ordinary folk hiding their past as a soldier, sailor, or navy seal, and no rich hunters with high tech weaponry. For the hunting trio of Rick, Greg and their leader TJ, their latest victims, Ray and Brooke, represent everything they hate about Clinton's America. The hunt is a way to lash out at the system through their victims, even so far as celebrating murder as a way to make America great again. 

With politics and back stories quickly dispensed with the film kicks satisfyingly into action. The set ups for every standoff are slick, well paced, and mostly explosive. By playing with our expectations of Ray and Brooke the second act provides plenty of surprises. They may be affluent city folk but  more than hold their own in an adrenaline ridden fight for their lives. Given the budget restraints the explosive set pieces are of a higher quality than expected. Though it's never sufficiently explained why these soft living city folk are such bad-asses in the woodlands, it's also not necessary and would likely detract from the thrill ride of this enjoyable popcorn flick. By far the film's highlight is Marlene Malcolm as Brooke who truly gives it her all especially when it comes to the action proving that women can kick ass as well, if not better than the men. This puts Malcolm in the same league as other female action heroes like Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Kate'.  


A familiar journey but with some new routes and exciting stops, 'Death Hunt' is a fine addition to the survival thriller line up visited by numerous big screen names. By stripping the story to some bare essentials and keeping the focus on the unfolding action backed with some stunning scenery, explosive action and solid mix of chilling yet entertaining performances. The star turn comes from Marlene Malcolm who goes all out in this proving that women can hold their own against the men when it comes to the action.   


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