Small Screen Berkeley: ‘The Prey’ and ‘Boys State’

In Vithaya Pansringarm, ‘The Prey’ may have found our next James Bond supervillain; while ‘Boys State’ provides us with everything we hope for from politics — and everything we fear.

The Prey follows in a line of work inspired by Richard Connell’s short story, ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ Photo: Courtesy Dark Star Pictures

It’s summer time, the traditional season for action movies — but with Hollywood shut down and tentpole pictures being held back for a distant, post-COVID future, the action pickings are a little slim at the moment. Enter The Prey, streaming on all major platforms beginning Tuesday, Aug. 25 — or, if you don’t want to wait until then, via Alamo on Demand starting Friday, Aug. 21.

But first, let’s talk a little about Richard Connell. All but forgotten today, he wrote a short story in 1924 entitled ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ Frequently anthologized thereafter, the story caught the eyes of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, who turned it into a film for RKO in 1932. (Cooper and Schoedsack’s next film was King Kong; some of The Most Dangerous Game’s sets were reused in that classic.)

This excellent pre-Code film was a well-deserved hit for the studio, and Connell’s story has gone on to be remade many times since — some versions crediting the original, but most not. The Prey falls into the latter category, but let’s not hold that against it.

Written and directed by Jimmy Henderson (who, IMDb avers, is an Italian who lives and works in Cambodia), The Prey stars Gu Shang Wei as Xin, an Interpol cop whose failed effort to bust a Phnom Penh crime ring results in him being sent to a distant prison camp somewhere in the jungle. Selected to serve as prey for three wealthy sociopaths — who’ve paid the prison’s warden (Vithaya Pansringarm) a premium for the privilege of stalking human beings — Xin must rely on guile and his police training  to survive the hunt.


The Prey’s sweeping vistas of remote Koh Kong Province lends the film some gravitas and grandeur it probably doesn’t deserve, but Henderson has another ace up his cinematic sleeve. Though Wei makes for a fairly vanilla hero, Pansringam brings his ‘A’ game to the role of the wicked warden, making the case to be a future Bond supervillain. Seriously, he’s that good – and that bad!

‘Boys State’: Everything we hope for, and fear, from politics

Boys State (currently screening on Apple TV+) documents an event that, apparently, has been a regular occasion across the United States since the 1930s. Sponsored by the American Legion, Boys State brings together hundreds of high school seniors each summer for a week-long lesson — and experiment — in democracy.

Boys State (the film) records the 2018 Texas iteration, and my but it’s strange (the event). Suffused with old-fashioned patriotism, veneration of the military and teenage testosterone — and taking place within the hallowed halls of Texas’ state capital in Austin — it’s not a comfortable place for anyone to the left of Louie Gohmert.

Nonetheless, we see two young liberals elected to leadership positions within one of Boys State’s two political parties, the queasily named Nationalists. Watching them skillfully negotiate their way through a landmine of red meat legislation (outlawing abortion under all circumstances, removing all limitations on gun ownership) is impressive.

If you’re wondering, there’s a Girls State as well – perhaps directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss will document that event at a later date. In the meantime, Boys State provides viewers everything we hope for from politics — and everything we fear — in one hugely entertaining 109-minute package.