Editor’s Notes: Deadliest Prey, Jimmy’s Hall, and Swim Little Fish Swim are out on their respective formats November 17th.
Deadliest Prey (Olive Films) is a sequel to 1987’s The Deadly Prey. In the earlier film, Special Forces soldier Mike Danton (Ted Prior) was reluctantly drawn into conflict with Colonel Hogan (David Campbell), his ex-commanding officer. Thrown into the middle of the woods nearly naked and without weapons, Danton was forced to fight huge numbers of armed soldiers to survive. He did survive, killing all but one — Col. Hogan. In the current film, Hogan is released from prison and immediately determines to seek revenge on Danton. He quickly reconnects with his troops and has Danton kidnapped with a nefarious plan to make him suffer before he’s killed.
An action flick in the style of Rambo, Deadliest Prey is cartoon-like in its larger-than-life lead characters and seems more a carbon copy of the original than a continuation. Director David A. Prior provides practically non-stop mayhem but little else. You won’t find terrific acting or clever dialogue here. It’s an unapologetic action movie with a simple, straightforward plot pitting two modern-day warriors against each other. This movie and its predecessor owe much to The Most Dangerous Game and The Naked Prey, films in which protagonists battle enormous obstacles to survive.
There is an interesting subtext to The Deadliest Game. As we watch Hogan, who’s been stewing in jail for 27 years planning vengeance, we see how his military service in Vietnam has hardened him and wounded him mentally. He uses the skills he learned as a U.S. Marine to fashion the ultimate revenge. Hogan suggests officials in ancient Rome who conducted gladiatorial matches to the death for the pleasure of the masses.
Bonus features on the unrated Blu-ray release include interviews with Ted Prior, David A. Prior, David Campbell, and Fritz Matthews.
Jimmy’s Hall (Sony Home Entertainment), based on a true story, is a cultural center in Ireland dedicated to dances, art classes, and other non-controversial ventures. Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) opened the hall in 1922, but on the brink of civil war and with unwanted attention from the church and other politicians, he is forced to flee and the hall to close. To avoid arrest, Jimmy travels to New York, where he remains for ten years. Returning in 1932, Jimmy sees that the hall has fallen into disrepair. Encouraged by old friends, he determines to reopen the once popular venue, but finds that old hostilities are still very much alive. Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) is his primary opponent.
This clergyman regards the hall as a center of sin and depravity. Jimmy must face small-town attitudes and the fear that he is fostering communism through the planned use of the hall as a meeting place of ordinary folks. He turns activist crusader when he sees the widespread poverty and growing cultural oppression in his old hometown.
If the plot sounds like that of the movie Footloose, there are similarities, but Jimmy’s Hall is far more political in nature. There’s a David vs. Goliath theme that portrays Jimmy as the popular underdog in a largely Catholic community in which the Church is a powerful, intimidating force.
Director Ken Loach sets up the period effectively and portrays Jimmy as a Capra-esque crusader awakened to the needs of his community. Ward plays Jimmy as a more worldly counterpart of his fellow townsfolk. He has, after all, spent a decade in New York.
Bonus extra on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, commentary with Barry Ward, and a making-of featurette.
Swim Little Fish Swim
Swim Little Fish Swim (IndiePix), the debut feature from writer-directors Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar, is set against the backdrop of a New York City where hopeful artists gather and long to achieve success. Among these is musician Leeward (Dustin Guy Defa) and wife Mary (Brooke Bloom), a hospital nurse who is becoming more and more resentful of her husband. While she works long hours, Leeward fancies himself a misunderstood artist and composes songs with instruments he makes from his 3-year-old daughter’s toys. Lilas (Lola Bessis), a 19-year-old French artist and daughter of a world-famous painter, tries to make it in New York’s contemporary art scene and escape her overbearing mother. When Lilas moves into Leeward and Mary’s small Chinatown apartment, the couple’s already strained relationship is upset even more.
This theme has been tapped many times before: artistic aspirations in collision with real-world needs. Seeing himself as an undiscovered artist and visionary, Leeward puts the burden of supporting the family entirely on his wife’s shoulders. We never empathize with him because we never see the evidence of his supposed artistic “genius.” He comes off as an arrogant, shallow complainer rather than someone actively working toward a goal.
Bessis and Amar show promise, but the film tends to wander and often fails to focus on what is most important, concerned instead with infusing the movie with local color. The film is in English and French, with English subtitles.