Man is The Best Prey in Surviving The Game (1994)
EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD HUNT.
What is the allure of hunting? It is something I’ve always wanted to try but never got round to. In Australia we do have a hunting culture called “pigging”, where you hunt wild pigs or boars otherwise known as “Razorbacks”. You take out some dogs, usually large mixed breeds and chase after the feral pigs. My cousin loves doing it, he even lost half his left foot after one adventurous night.
I’ve always enjoyed films about hunting as well. There is something exciting about them that gets me pumped. Must be the thrill of the chase. Predator, Hard Target and The Condemned are some of my favourites. And you can probably see a theme among them: “Man is the most dangerous game” and one of the most entertaining sub genres of action cinema.
But one movie stuck with me after I saw it at the tender age of 13 when it just came out on VHS. It showed the brutality of the social class system where the rich see the poor as nothing more as pawns for their own sick pleasure. But also you should never judge a book by it’s cover. That movie was Surviving The Game, directed by Ernest Dickerson and stars Ice T and Rutger Hauer.
WHAT IS THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME?
The story centers around Mason (Ice T), a homeless man with nothing to lose. After the deaths of his two best friends he decides he’s had enough of this mortal coil and chooses to end his life. Just as he is about to a good Samaritan named Cole (Charles S. Dutton) stops him and convinces Mason not to give up. He offers him a job as an assistant to Burns (Rutger Hauer), a hunter who takes rich businessmen out into the wilderness to hunt “big game”. Soon they head off to the mountains to a remote cabin where five other “hunters” are ready to go on their next hunt. Little does Mason know is what they are hunting will soon be him yet the hunters don’t realise how clever Mason really is.
THE THRILL IS IN THE KILL
What is essentially a modern update of the classic short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, which itself has inspired many other loose adaptions, it still holds up as a tightly wound action movie. The story by Eric Bernt (The Hitcher remake) keeps the tension constant with the uneasy feeling of dread for we as the audience know what is installed for Mason yet still unfolds with many character reveals and story surprises. The best written scene involves Mason with Doc (Gary Busey), a conversation about what it is to be a man, when you know your ready for adulthood and how you deal with it. Doc discusses his violent introduction to manhood and this scene sets up the machismo for the rest of the movie (poor Prince Henry Stout).
HOW FAR WILL YOU GO TO STAY ALIVE?
The directing and cinematography of the movie is like it’s wilderness setting: claustrophobic. Everything is shot in tight quarters but you can easily follow the action and the pacing is done really well, there isn’t many dull moments. The shots of the wilderness are breathtaking yet at the same time frightening as you wouldn’t want to stuck or at the worst hunted. The practical effects, especially the trophy room are very realistic but there are the occasional green screen shots that stand out but it was shot mostly on real locations so it would’ve been a treacherous shoot.
THE ULTIMATE MANHUNT
Acting wise they got quite the cast involved. Ice T is a believable hero, just skirting on the anti-hero scale but you root for him and is quite convincing as a down-in-his-luck drifter who didn’t see this job as a great second chance at life. Rutger Hauer is born to play villains and he doesn’t disappoint in this movie. As does Charles S. Dutton, after his role in Alien 3 it showed his range as in this movie that he can go between nurturing and frightening is the quickest of ease. The rest of the cast which includes F. Murray Abraham, John C. McGinley, William McNamara and Gary Busey round it off and they do a great job bringing the different personalities of the hunting party. But Busey stands out of the whole cast with his small role.
THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: KILL OR BE KILLED
The only problems I really have with the movie come from the clunky dialogue which does stand out from time to time and Mason’s suddenly ability to handle high-powered weapons with little experience but I can let it go cause it’s such an entertaining movie. Plus it had the misfortune being released a year after the similar themed Hard Target.
DID YOU CATCH YOUR PREY?
So overall if you want a white knuckle ride into the depravity of man then this is your movie. It came out at the right time before CGI ruined action movies and doesn’t disappoint on the with story, acting and directing. It makes the most dangerous game seem like something you might want to have a go at, if you have the stomach.
Dan Wilson comes from a land down under, where Mad Max roams and Vegemite tastes incredible. When he’s not fighting off drop bears he enjoys anything action, horror and sci-fi but sleeps when he can.
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