Apex 2021 Film Review

Apex (2021), directed by Edward Drake | FEATURE FILM REVIEW

In this inexplicable piece of work that has Bruce Willis refer to himself as “bacon and eggs on a Sunday morning”, an unripe and myopic creative effort struggles to evoke the chaotic pleasures of most playfully immature features.

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Inexpertise can delight

Look, I love a B movie as much as the next person – taking cinema seriously all the time is boring and arrogant and misguided. The etymological origin of the word ‘amateur’ literally comes from the Latin ‘amare’ – to love. 

Scrappy, small budget creations are charming because they’re produced by people who are making them because they love them, and artistically, that beats a slick corporate churn out that rings greedy, smug and hollow. 

Also ultimately, who am I? It takes no bravery to consume and critique someone’s work – I’m not superior because I didn’t dare to try. Having said all of that, this movie was not enjoyable. 

Apex 2021 Director Edward Drake
Apex (2021) directed by Edward Drake. Image courtesy of RLJE FIlms.

Occam’s Razor doesn’t belong in your screenplay

The tidy 90 minutes has the air of a student film straight from the opening – rocky out-of-focus camera work with chunky contrived lighting greets you with an immediately home-made feel.

Similarly immediate is the exposition. Lots of “Don’t you remember when your father left you his company?” and “You know what I’m like Carrion, I’ve always been crazy!” 

It’s slightly bizarre to treat your audience as so ignorant of the lore of your material, when Wikipedia cites this movie as “yet another adaptation” of the original 1924 short story ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ by Richard Connell.

We’re told Bruce Willis’ character has broken laws “we haven’t even thought of”? 

I’m still not sure what that means. 

Bruce Willis Apex 2021
Bruce Willis in Apex (2021). Image courtesy of RLJE FIlms.

Due to the screenplay’s apparent need to explain absolutely everything to us and its existence in a dystopian future, holograms make such a constant appearance that the technology almost becomes its own character. 

At one point, Willis invites another character to come closer, and the individual within the hologram replies, completely deadpan, “I’m literally a hologram.” I laughed, but was I supposed to?

There are multiple moments where characters talk out loud to no one at length. I’m all for indulgent spoken monologues, but this isn’t that.

What’s most astounding in retrospect is that amongst a script so determined to serve absolutely everything to the audience on a platter made of gratuitous explanations, I don’t think I know a single character’s name.

I care about your feelings

I considered including a general summary of the plot in this review, but truthfully, there is no mystery awaiting you. You will explicitly be told the entire plot (and everything else) within the first few minutes – you do not need a pre-made goodie bag of information from me to set you up for this feature.

You actually only need information in order for my review to make sense, so here we are: Bruce Willis is a criminal sentenced to life in prison. There’s a company that allows paying customers to hunt a human prisoner like prey. Bruce Willis becomes said prisoner. That’s it.

The violence is worth a mention actually. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s something about the potential clumsiness a low budget can sometimes force that makes any occurring violence feel much more explicit. 

It’s like hearing a child swear – witnessing something vulgar and obscene coming out of something blundering makes me squirm and flinch. 

The buffer of budget often softens the coarseness that raw brutality can bring by insulating the picture with high quality special effects or a soothingly famous (and thus soothingly familiar) cast.

But money has an overrated presence in movies, and is frequently erroneously inserted into productions to compensate for a lack of substance – Apex (2021) escapes this prospective bloating and yet never quite reaches the endearingly untidy finish that edges economically budgeted pictures ahead of blockbusters.

Neal Mcdonough in Apex (2021)
Neal Mcdonough in Apex (2021). Image courtesy of RLJE FIlms.

I hate to make a list but…

What struck me as the most frustrating was how lazy and minimal the world building is. At one point Lochlyn Munro states he will be leaving a 3 star Yelp review, then mentions that he read about the hunting company in Forbes magazine. 

The larger attitude towards this establishment and activity stays frustratingly ambiguous, when really, that is the most interesting concept posed at all. 

In the last half hour there is a conversation of sorts that seems to attempt to penetrate the ethics behind what the hunters are doing, and yet it goes nowhere. 

There are mild and vague references towards “the outside world” and being perceived as a “monster”, but we are left with no greater understanding of where this recreational practice lies within the morality of the society we’re observing.

That’s the biggest mistake Apex (2021)  makes for me. It spends an inane amount of time forcing the interpersonal ‘banter’ between the hunters and tastelessly demonstrating the subsequent violence they commit, as well as the logistics of the ‘hunting’ itself, and yet no time is spent mining the intangible qualities of what we’re watching at all.

I see what you did there

Not all of it makes you want to turn away though. 

There are some sight gags – at one point Willis’ character profile is strung up in front of the hunters, and the information hologram states that his last known address was a place called ‘Nat’s All Nite Sex Dungeon & Seafood’. It’s a detail never explicitly mentioned, barely kept on screen for more than a few seconds, but one I greatly appreciated.

Apex 2021 Starring Bruce Willis
Apex (2021) starring Bruce Willis

There are admirable attempts at creative lighting – sets marked with symmetrical neon bars to express the claustrophobia of a prison cell, whole scenes drenched in red. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

The soundtrack is mostly tolerable, even if it does sound like a poor imitation of the pulsing electronic score written by The Chemical Brothers for Hanna (2011).

Neal McDonough gives off one of the most respectable performances from the cast, in that he gives the least – his constantly hard, neutral expression is a satisfyingly cold portrayal of the kind of person enthused by hunting.

I would also recommend watching this film if only so someone else could help me to identify what accent Nels Lennarson is doing the entire time. Is he Irish? Is he Canadian? Is he Guatemalan? 

Corry Large’s character seems to go missing for the majority of the movie, showing up to wander waist-deep into water fully clothed 2 separate times for absolutely no reason, and yet when he is finally given lines, I would argue he gives the most watchable performance of the whole cast.

The incomprehensible truth

There’s two separate Shakespeare references in this movie; at one point Willis alludes to Hamlet whilst royalty-free YouTube hair tutorial music plays in the background and he eats ‘hallucinogenic berries’ which are literally just blackberries. Another (accidental?) laugh on my behalf.

Aside from that, if I had to sum up the energy of this film with a moment from itself, it’d have to be the instance in which Bruce Willis turns towards a CCTV camera (holding a ridiculously large prop gun that appears to be slightly too heavy for him) and proceeds to give a wrinkled middle finger to the camera for about 3 seconds too long.

Imagine that; the clueless, awkward and misplaced effort of it, and you’ve seen this movie already.


Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams
Stills courtesy of RLJE Films

1.5 out of 5 stars


Journalism graduate passionate about writing, film and bothering people with her thoughts about both. Believes the cinema is a strictly solo activity. Frequently described as ‘intense’ and ‘shorter than I thought’.

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