*** Stars

You don’t expect much from a straight-to-DVD adaptation of a 1920s short story, let alone one that doesn’t even have the name of its original text anymore and seems to have three or four different names depending on market, even less when its lead is a man better known for professional wrestling than actual acting. So colour me surprised when 3 Hours Until Dead aka The Most Dangerous Game aka Never Leave Alive fell into my lap and turned out to actually be a lot of fun.

The premise is simple and surprisingly faithful to the original despite being set in the modern day: Rick (John Hennigan), a big game hunter and Anna (Michelle Taylor), a photographer, are the only survivors of a ship crash that washes up on the beaches of a deserted island somewhere between the US and Russia. They are introduced to Ivan and Zaroff (Eric Etebari and Joseph Gatt) and if you thought that they were going to turn out to be friendly assistants in their efforts to get back to civilisation, well, you clearly haven’t worked out what the eponymous ‘Most Dangerous Game’ is.

With only a predominant cast of four, it helps that all four of them bring their A-game to their roles, adding a surprising amount of light and shade to such a project with Hennigan particularly impressing, showcasing not only an impressive subtlety to his drunk acting but a certain depth beyond your standard wrestler-turned-actor performance. Nothing here is particularly award-worthy but certainly better than you’d think. It also helps that the action and camera-work are kept quite simple and straightforward which works better than trying anything too contrived. Overall, direction and production are of a high standard and never falls into the modern action trap of making anything too dark or adding in too many edits.

As well structured as the movie is and how well constructed the loose spins on the archetypal characters are, the script itself is a little bare bones with no interaction reading unlike hundreds of other similar movies. It’s well laid out but it’s hardly unique. It’s hard to be fully invested in a movie where you feel like you know exactly where it’s about to go, right down to the time when the villain’s henchman starts to have doubts about what they’re doing and the beats where you see our heroes go from actual dislike through animosity through a certain kinship. None of the beats is technically incorrect, it’s just so frequently functional, it’s hard to do more than just enjoy it.

For what it is, 3 Hours Until Dead shouldn’t be this much fun, sure, once the actual game is afoot, it lacks any real tension but that doesn’t stop it never being less than watchable. This is the sort of movie that is to be applauded simply for trying to be better than merely good, for actually aiming higher than that. It’s not something you’ll remember given a day or two post-viewing but in for what it is, it’s still much better than it had any right to be. If given the opportunity, give it a watch but not necessarily worth hunting down.

Dir: Steven LaMorte

Scr: J. Amanda Satabar

Cast: John Hennigan, Michelle Taylor, Eric Etebari, Joseph Gatt, Thomas Mackenzie, J. Michael Gatt

Prd: Steven LaMorte, Jonathan Lee Smith

DOP: Ryan DeFranco, Douglas Quill

Country: USA

Year: 2017

Runtime: 89 minutes

3 Hours Until Dead Is Out On Download from 7th May