Deadly Prey (1987)

deadlypreyAs Col. John Hogan barks to his recruits, “I ain’t the Army, ain’t the Navy, ain’t the Marine Corps! … I’m meaner than all of ’em!” While that is debatable, it is clear he is training the men to be the highest-paid mercenaries in the people-killing field. Hogan’s methods — effective, yet unorthodox — go something like this:
1. Abduct guys off the streets.
2. Drive them to the base, some 75 miles outside Los Angeles.
3. Steal their shoes.
4. Make them literally run for their lives into the woods.
5. Give chase and shoot freely until the poor saps are dead.

Footing the bill for this Most Dangerous Game is a steely-eyed suit (Troy Donahue, The Phantom Gunslinger) who shows up to deliver Hogan a one-month-or-else ultimatum: “Get this bunch of misfit mercenaries ready for action.” Perhaps so desperate as to be sloppy, the Hogan Squad kidnaps the wrong guy to become the latest Deadly Prey: Vietnam vet Mike Danton (Ted Prior, Sledgehammer), he of the big pecs and bigger blonde poodle mullet.

deadlyprey1Shirtless and in cutoffs, Danton looks like Magic Mike meets M*A*S*H. Almost just as quickly as he’s given a running head start, our himbo hero turns the tables on Hogan’s zeroes. Camouflaging himself with a twig and a handful of brush, Danton aims to beat his captors on their home turf by Rambo-ing some shit up. An awful lot of bodies hit the floor before one of the gunmen notices: “Christ, we’re not huntin’ him! He’s huntin’ us!” Later surveying the swift reduction of his workforce with his own eyes triggers a tinge of recognition in Col. Hogan (David Campbell, Twisted Justice) …

Hogan: “This style! I know this style! It’s my style! … Danton? Mike Danton?”
Random Armed Lackey in Sunglasses: “Yeah, that was the name on the mailbox. You know him?”
Hogan: “Know him? I trained him.

If I had written and directed this, I would have instructed Campbell to face the camera on those last three words as I zoomed in, all tight and dramatic and prepping my DGA acceptance speech.

But I didn’t; David A. Prior (Killer Workout) did. He may have missed that golden opportunity, but give the man this: Deadly Prey is nothing if not action-packed and then vacuum-sealed, so as not to let a single drop of testosterone leak out. It’s never boring.

Supposed grenades explode with all the impact of whatever a magician throws to the ground to create an instant smoke screen, but give the man this: He shoehorned in a meaningless role for B-movie legend Cameron Mitchell (Kill Squad), so your grandpa would have reason to rent the tape.

And Prior ends his movie abruptly, with highly questionable closure that left the plot open for his overdue sequel in 2013’s Deadliest Prey, but give the man this: He defied the odds and did what they said couldn’t be done. In essence, he filmed the unfilmable: the Cabela’s catalog. —Rod Lott

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