Available since April 25th Never Leave Alive is the second feature length film from director Steven LaMorte. Originally completed in early 2014, it took a few years for the film to find a home with the distributor Wild Eye Releasing, who would make it widely available. After the ship they are on is racked with explosions, Rick Rainsford (John Hennigan) is trapped on a deserted island with his reluctant companion, Anna (Michelle Taylor). While attempting to save another gravely injured survivor, they find themselves hunted by Zaroff (Eric Etebari), a sociopathic ex-KGB Agent along with his partner Ivan (Joseph Gatt). In spite of their differences, Rick and Anna must work together to disarm Zaroff's deadly traps, survive his assistant's brutal attacks, and escape the island alive.
Never Leave Alive was originally titled The Most Dangerous Game, like the famous book from 1924, about man’s lust for a challenge, justifiable homicide and the reasonings around hunting animals. I’m not sure why the title was changed because the two projects share so many similarities that the influence was obvious, even to someone who has never read the book. Most of the changes that were made did not improve the story, unfortunately. By introducing Anna, they went more for romantic tension instead of the themes that weighed heavily in the book. Regrettably, the chemistry between Hennigan and Taylor is lacking.
It feels like two people talking at each other rather than connecting. They both give decent performances and are attractive people, but I never believed they were falling for each other, even though the dialogue told me so. Etebari’s Zaroff has none of the nuance of the character from the book. Instead, he is more maniacal and comes off like a low rent Kraven The Hunter. Surprisingly, the best character is Ivan. He has the depth required of a great villain, not the sidekick. His blend of ferocity and humanity is a welcome insertion, no matter where it comes from.
The movie is okay, overall. It has a good setting and likable main characters, however for a movie about people hunting each other, it is surprisingly light on action. Hennigan is another wrestler trying to make the transition to action star and LaMorte did not use Hennigan’s physicality to the best of his ability. Instead of prolonged action we are given several short conflicts that result in one party running away, with the peak of the action being a knife fight. You can do worse on a Sunday afternoon while folding laundry than putting this on and looking up when the action starts, but this film will be no more than a stepping stone in the careers of it’s stars.
by James Lindorf