This 1996 low-budget superhero/vigilante movie was picked for the Thursday night Trash Or Treasure watch party because sometimes you just want some light-hearted action nonsense to get in your eyeballs. It had a solid batch of B-Movie headliners and a premise so simple it couldn’t go wrong. Yet what we ended up with was significantly lesser than the sum of its parts.
Because you are going to notice it like a nasty rash, we have to mention the camera work. The camera never sits still, at any point. If it isn’t rolling around, desperate to grab the most Batman possible of visuals, then it’s dollying side to side to give a 30-foot shot of the 10-feet of action that’s happening. On the few occasions when its feet have been nailed to the ground, it’s nodding back-and-forward like an overly excited puppy. This includes during the quiet talking moments when everyone is sat down. Even when it’s not that overt it’s still there, to the point that people who suffer motion sickness may want to avoid watching it.
This hyper-kinetic style might well be because director David DeCoteau didn’t have much faith in the action sequences that pepper their way through the 96 minutes. Sure, a number of them would make the average Mighty Morphing Power Rangers fan say “that looks fake!” but overall, they are right up there with some of the most middling generic martial-arts movies of the last 30 years. They aren’t bad, it’s simply that the action is never impressive or imaginative.
This does align perfectly with the acting on display, which has consistent under-performing from everyone. Maxwell Caufield, Stacy Keach, Linda Blair, and Trevor Goddard have all done much better work elsewhere, including in bad movies. Although films are always joint efforts none of them appear to be putting any in here. Again; no one is terrible (Trevor Goddard especially tries to add a lot of menace to his role as Generic Bad Guy), they just never rise above being so-so.
For the real villain of the piece, you need to look at the script. Although not too hard, least the curse rubs off on you. The framework of an ex-special agent brought back into the game by a returned adversary who kills his family is fine, but it’s then run through with so little commitment or skill that when you aren’t bored you feel embarrassed for those involved. A perfect example is this exchange just after the hero attacked a low-level goon:
The Jaguar “Tell Bandera; he better learn to pray. Because now he is… “
Goon “He is what?”
The Jaguar “Prey!”
Mind you, The Jaguar had just opened up a page of cocaine with his teeth, so maybe we can forgive him.
If you want to make the film very slightly watchable, then assume that after the hero’s wife and child are murdered, he has a full-blown breakdown and becomes the super-hero his son had designed for Halloween. It’s the only way to explain Caulfield’s utterly bizarre costuming, weapon choice, and dialogue.
Better still, just don’t watch this film at all. Take my word for it Trash and move on. It has no redeeming features, including being good to snark at with friends. Even Maxwell Caulfield’s pornadelic mustache stops being funny after its first appearance, and if you can’t laugh at that there have to be a hundred better things for you to do with your time.
Prey Of The Jaguar is available but we aren’t telling you where, as we don’t endorse self-harm.
Watch Party Score – 5-0. “Didn’t care what happened to anyone.” – “It has the potential to be so bad it was good, but it didn’t fulfill it” –