It’s over! The review series that started over a year ago, when I thought “wouldn’t it be fun to see if all David A Prior’s movies are as entertaining as Deadly Prey?” ends with the rather definitive answer “no” (to both parts of the question), and yet another journey to the woods of rural Alabama.
There’s still “Dancin’: It’s On!”, which Prior co-wrote with producer / director David Winters, who funded him back in the AIP days; but Prior didn’t direct that and I have absolutely no desire to watch a low-budget version of a genre I already had no interest in. We have a short film called “Way of Redemption” and a full-length one called “Assassin’s Fury” both listed as in “post-production” on IMDB – but, as Prior died in 2015 and there was no big money behind him, I’m guessing they’ll never see the light of day.
Anyway, let’s talk “Relentless Justice”. Although, I could just copy and paste my reviews of “Killzone”, or “Deadly Prey”, or “Death Chase”, or indeed his last movie “Deadliest Prey”, as it’s yet another take on perennial bad movie favourite, “The Most Dangerous Game”, where a group of (usually rich) assholes hunts some poor fool for sport. When the plot began to unfurl, I wondered why Prior had bothered making what was largely the same story, minus the gender of the hunted, and then I realised it’s a perfect end to his filmography; in other words, annoying and confusing.
The first thing we see is a woman park right in front of a “no parking” sign, seemingly not deliberately. A young woman is going on a camping trip with her new boyfriend, and the mother is rather paranoid, telling her to be careful, and giving her a code to survive by. It sounds like “ippity”, but it actually means “Identify, predict, decide, execute”. If you’re wondering if this code will prove useful, either to the daughter or mother, at any point in the course of “Relentless Justice”, then be assured it’s just a massive red herring. Or maybe Prior forgot about it. Who knows? The mother, Victoria De Vries, runs an MMA gym, and actually looks good doing it, unlike almost every other female fighter in the history of low-budget cinema.
Victoria is played by Leilani Sarelle, who was also in “Night Claws”, and in this movie she’s doing an Australian accent (we learn later she used to be in the Australian SAS, in a speech that’s known as the “ultimate badass” among we bad movie enthusiasts).
So, the couple go for their camping trip, but are immediately interrupted by the boyfriend getting his throat cut by a group of angry locals, an all-star team of scumbags. We have the Mayor (Vernon “Commando” Wells), the Sheriff (long-time Prior associate David Campbell), a gent by the name of “Boozer” (Art James, another Prior regular) and Matthews (Ted Prior, who seems to enjoy playing a villain, quite a way down the cast list). He’s killed immediately and she’s captured because they want to use her as bait to get to Victoria, who they think would be a better prey for their little hunting game.
Okay, a quick aside. Vernon Wells, as you may remember if you’ve seen “Commando”, is Australian. He makes no attempt to hide his accent here, and Satsuma, Alabama (a real town, and clearly where they filmed most of the exteriors, such as they are) may be the only deep-south town with an Australian mayor. But, as we mentioned a few paragraphs ago, Sarelle is also doing an Australian accent. Now, that seems like the sort of thing that would be mentioned later on, when the two characters meet. Perhaps they know each other? It would be an extra layer, that’s for sure. Want to guess if anything is made of two major characters in this Alabama-set movie being from Australia?
After not hearing from her daughter in like 12 hours, Victoria decides to go for a drive to where she’ll be camping – she’s paranoid enough to have a GPS tracker set up on her daughter’s phone. Now, bear in mind her daughter is an adult and doesn’t have to call, and is going to the wilderness where there’s never cell reception – okay, it turns out her fears are legitimate, but it still seems pretty weird.
So, she comes up against the town’s crooked leaders, but finds a few good people – Deputy Deborah (Sonia Curtis) and the town’s doctor, Traci Lind (Tara Kleinpeter, a Prior regular by this point). Traci’s husband was killed by the hunters soon after their arrival in town, and Traci wants revenge and hopes Victoria can get it. A solid basis for a plot, definitely.
If you’ve cheated and gone and read the cast list for this, you’ll be wondering what’s happening with the biggest name attached to this project – Eric Roberts – and other name actors Mark Rolston (“Aliens”, “The Shawshank Redemption”) and Sherrie Rose (ISCFC classic “Summer Job”). Well, they clearly had Roberts for half a day, so to say he’s crowbarred into the movie and has absolutely no relation to the main plot whatsoever would almost be an understatement. He’s a mafia guy who is told by Rose of a small town in Alabama where he can store all his drugs, or whatever. He comes in for a meeting with the Mayor, and then drives off. That’s it. Rolston is a hired gun, brought in when it becomes apparent that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew with Victoria. One might think it’s a bad idea to introduce a new main character with 15 minutes of your movie to go, but no-one ever told David A Prior that.
Much like “Night Claws”, main characters die in completely meaningless ways, lessening any drama the movie might have. The doctor’s off-screen death and then her post-death contribution to the plot is really top-level bizarre.
“Relentless Justice” is so slow. All the fun stuff – the hunting of Victoria – happens in the last quarter of the movie, which up to then has been somewhat leisurely paced. Some bits of that final chase are fun, but it’s nothing you’ve not seen dozens and dozens of times before, in the filmography of the same man even. A thoroughly unsatisfying end to a largely unsatisfying career.
I’ll be doing a career retrospective of Prior for We Are Movie Geeks (www.wearemoviegeeks.com) to purge myself of him, and then we’ll be moving on to more fun projects, more reviews of the sort of thing we love to entertain both ourselves and (hopefully) you.
Rating: thumbs down