Directed by: Edward Drake (Cosmic Sin, Breach)
Co-written by: Corey Large (The Ninth Passenger) and Edward Drake
Starring: Neal McDonough (“Yellowstone,” Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City), Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Sixth Sense), Lochlyn Munro (“Riverdale”), Megan Peta Hill (Open Water 3), and Trevor Gretzky (Spiral).
Richard Connell's short story THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME has been adapted for film and television dozens of times over the last 90 years. If you are unfamiliar with the story itself, you are undoubtedly familiar with some of its inspired movies. This 98-year-old tale about a big-game hunter from NYC who finds himself abandoned on a Caribbean island where he is hunted by a Russian aristocrat is material ripe for modern contextualization and social commentary.
Some of the notable spins on this classic yarn are THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), THE RUNNING MAN (1987), SURVIVING THE GAME (1994), THE PEST (1997), THE HUNT (2020), and of course Tremors: Shrieker Island (2020). So, to say these adaptations are a mixed bag is an understatement and perhaps part of the reason filmmakers continually revisit this well-traveled trail. It could be argued that no one has nailed an adaptation and there is still room for a new take... that and it's in the public domain, so you don't need to pay to adapt it. That last one plays a big part in some of these if I had to guess.
In Edward Drake's take on the material, Thomas Malone is an ex-cop wrongfully condemned to a life sentence. With no other chance at freedom Malone agrees to participate in Apex, a game where 6 hunters pay for the chance to hunt humans on a remote island. Set in a slightly more dystopian future than the Corona fueled hellscape we currently find ourselves in, APEX plays with similar themes explored in THE RUNNING MAN. If you approach APEX with the expectations you would have of an 80's action film you could have a good time with this one.
Bruce Willis has been in a bit of a slump in the last couple of years and while APEX is not a full return to form it is a reminder that we shouldn't underestimate Bruno. Willis leans on the smirking charm that made him a movie star almost 40 years ago and the film continually reminds us not to take anything we are seeing too seriously. There is a ridiculous mugshot/hologram of Willis that appears at least 5 or 6 times in the film and while it serves the narrative (to add to the reasons why the hunters downplay his potential threat) its ultimate impact is a tonal level setter, this movie is bananas and it's a choice.
Is APEX the final word on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME? Probably not, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthy adaptation. RLJE Films, a division of AMC Networks, released APEX today on DVD and Blu-ray.