Stars: Bruce Willis, Neal McDonough Director: Edward Drake Distributor: Signature Entertainment
“He used to be something great.”
Imagine a Diet Coke Hard Target, but worse than that, and sci-fi: hello Apex Predator.
Opening in a somewhat tense, yet rapid display, Rainsford (Neal McDonough) approaches his prey during a nighttime rush. He’s a filthy rich doctor and one of five elite hunters who pay for the pleasure of hunting down hapless humans on a deserted island. Their sport, hosted by a dystopian tech company called Apex, and represented by a hologram character, offer unrealistic riches to challengers who feel that they can survive the onslaught from hunters with unlimited elite-level weaponry.
When the sport becomes too easy, like pitting the Premier League Champions against a Sunday league team, Rainsford demands tougher competition, and the answer is…a direct-to-video Bruce Willis. Incarcerated for a host of crazy sh*t, Willis’ Thomas Malone is offered the opportunity to compete, which he feels no choice but to accept. Arriving on the island via a CGI shipping container, Malone, now a grandfather, and old, the fighting and survival qualities are relatively dismissed or downplayed by the hunters – “Who’s this guy?” they say – almost establishing an ironic Die Hard vibe.
For the majority of Apex Predator, to no surprise, there is a severe lack of Bruce. McDonough has a limited amount of screen time also. Deciding to follow the shenanigans of the other hunters – mostly resembling a Divorced Dad’s Club – sees the bloated and egotistical individuals sooner find enemies amongst themselves than the target, Malone. This creative decision / limitation also opens the door to the vertical downfall of the film. The other hunters – Lyle (Lochlyn Munro), Bishop (Nels Lennarson), Ecka (Trevor Gretzky) and token female, Jeza (Megan Peta Hill) – present little to no interest. Their humour, and accents, fall flat way too often. Existentially, they’re individual disasters too. The only real interests lie within Rainsford and Malone, and we hardly see them.
Seeing Bruce Willis – one of the greatest action stars of all-time – execute extended cameos is, unfortunately, the new normal. Here and there, we do see Bruce pop up in a big film (Glass), but for now, this is how the contemporary years of his career exist. However, whenever he is on screen, there remains an excitement because we remember who he was – perhaps nostalgia is working overtime. Mainstream or direct-to-video, there is always a thrill in seeing Bruce tackle sci-fi.
Apex Predator’s existence as a sci-fi is a peculiar one, though mostly bizarre. Putting aside the cheap graphics, there is an unease at witnessing a poor blend of a cyber city in the distance with a woodland area. A futuristic film this may be, this film also fails in making this future believable. The CGI sci-fi elements do not, at all, go together with the main body of the visuals. Where credit is due, it is an ambitious attempt – maybe generated through lack of financing – but it just doesn’t sit right.
Ultimately, Apex Predator is exactly what one would naturally expect if one is familiar with the recent films of Bruce Willis. Sadly, it’s another to the tally. The concept – dystopian and leaving a sour taste – has been bettered elsewhere, though that doesn’t stop this effort from being entertained. Perhaps with more focus on its two stars, this could have been a better film. Completely eradicating the sci-fi element could have been beneficial too, or at least going full-on sci-fi with a much greater imagination and budget, perhaps.
Apex Predator is out now on DVD and digital in the UK. Many thanks to Signature Entertainment for the plreasure of this film.
This article’s featured image: By Source, Signature Entertainment, Fair Use