Never Leave Alive Review
Never Leave Alive is an adventure film about a man trapped on deserted island with a reluctant companion hunted by a sociopathic ex-KGB agent.
Richard Connell‘s 1924 classic short story The Most Dangerous Game has long been source for a number of action movies, including the 1932 standard that created the template for many that have followed, though many give the now famous plot a twist or tweak. Now comes Steven LaMorte‘s latest, a beefed up adaptation with plenty of action and B-grade fun, that may be familiar but clicks along with tons of energy.
After a chilling opening that establishes the premise with some decidedly effective umph, we meet Rick Rainsford (John Hennigan), a reality show star on the sauce, hungover as he boards a charter boat with his manager, whose plan is to have the troubled loose canon redeem himself on a wilderness explorer cruise to support his hunting show. That includes bringing along Anna (Michelle Taylor), a spunky photojournalist to document the whole thing, and from the start, she and Rick clash. When the boat suffers a sudden series of explosions however, it leaves Rick, Anna, and a severely wounded crew member in a life raft washing up on a small deserted island. Or so they think. They are met by two strange men, both Russian. Ivan (Joseph Gatt), a hulking bald man and Colonel Zaroff (Eric Etebari) the leader of the two, who offer shelter before revealing a sinister plan that pits the two survivors against their creepy hosts in a, well, most dangerous game across the island.
The ever-charismatic Hennigan is the heart of Never Leave Alive, the professional wrestler turned action star keeping the show going with a wink and a nod, his playful attitude always the thing that makes watching him fun. This year’s passion project Boone: The Bounty Hunter was a terrific bit of over-the-top action that played into that kind of characterization with great effect, and was proof the guy can handle the admittedly narrow fit that the modern action hero banters about in. In that one, he was also a reality TV show star and kept it rolling along with tongue firmly in cheek and packed with plenty of of punch. Here he is the same, swaggering about with those long locks and rippling muscles, chewing it all up with an edgy sense of humor while the action steams up. And it is when the film finally kicks into the main story, after all the setup and expositioning wraps up where Never Leave Alive finds its groove.
It’s a classic narrative trick to have a man and a woman initially at odds forced to reconcile under traumatic conditions and LaMorte, working from J. Amanda Sabater‘s script embraces the tropes with a certain zingy zeal, giving the two plenty of opportunities to bicker and bite before bonding. The island is pocked by booby traps and quicksand(!) and leaves nothing to surprise yet LaMorte manages to spike it all up with a good mix of humor and suspense. Hennigan has terrific timing and his presence alone, especially for fans, will keep this entertaining enough. It’s never meant to be taken seriously, like a comic book come to life, and is designed solely to be a light-hearted action comedy to put the star’s charms to good use. Etebari is a goofy villain in all the right ways, his spotty Russian accent only adding to the lunacy of the character. Taylor is great to watch as well, a tough-minded woman keeping right up with Hennigan, building some chemistry leading into the second act. All in all, for a what it is, Never Leave Alive makes for a solid action adventure and fans of both the genre and Hennigan will won’t be disappointed.
Never Leave Alive Review
Movie description: Never Leave Alive is an adventure film about a man trapped on deserted island with a reluctant companion hunted by a sociopathic ex-KGB agent.
Director(s): Steven LaMorte
Actor(s): John Hennigan, Michelle Taylor, Eric Etebari