Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2022)
Since the COVID pandemic couldnít slow down Bruce Willisís assault on the direct-to-video world, it comes as no surprise that 2022 shows at least six acting credits from him due for release. With Apex, we get one of Willisís eight films from 2021.
Former cop Thomas Malone (Willis) goes to prison for a crime he didnít commit. This lands him in the pen with a life sentence.
Malone gets a shot at freedom if he participates in a contest during which he plays human prey while hunters stalk him. Malone attempts to use his skills to survive and turn the tables on those who attempt to slay him.
Through those direct-to-video movies in which Willis appeared, the actor clearly took the money and ran. Pretty much all of them featured Willis in such a limited capacity that I inferred he rarely spent more than one or two days on each production.
Given the plot synopsis, I thought Apex might offer an exception. Because Malone forms such an integral part of the narrative, Willis clearly needed to work for a large percentage of he production, right?
Nope. Bizarrely, Apex offers a supposed cat/mouse, hunter/hunted story that devotes a shockingly small part of its running time to those themes.
I suspect Willis worked on Apex for two days at most, and maybe less. Despite the fact the narrative theoretically revolves around Malone, Willis appears onscreen with an alarming lack of frequency.
Even when we do see our ostensible lead, it seems clear that he rarely interacted with the rest of the cast. Apex goes to amusing extremes to hide the fact that Willis didnít act with the others, and it never fools the viewer.
Honestly, it becomes more entertaining to watch the silly editing tricks than to follow the rest of the flick. Not since a chiropractor filled in for a deceased Bela Lugosi on Plan 9 From Outer Space has a movie worked so hard to hide the absence of a lead actor.
During those rare occasions Willis shows up on screen, he appears to firmly reside in aforementioned ďtake the money and runĒ territory. Willis canít bother to attempt to act.
This means Willis just looks bored the whole time. He manages no sense of urgency or personality Ė heck, at times I wondered if he even realized which of his eight skillion mercenary roles he was in that week.
The gymnastics involved in these attempts to tell a story during which the main character hardly ever really interacts with the others damages the film in a variety of ways. For one, it means a decided lack of tension, as the obvious fact Willis doesnít actually face off against his foes makes their occasional fights unconvincing and goofy.
How can we buy into a movie about mano a mano battles when the combatants almost never truly interact? The brawls come across as so awkward and disjointed that they pack zero punch.
Also, because Willis spends so little time onscreen, Apex also leaves Malone out of the story an awful lot of the time. Rather than give us the basic cat/mouse tale we expect, instead we spend a lot of time with the hunters and their tedious interactions.
Apex devotes a depressing amount of its length to petty bickering among those who pursue Malone. They just argue and whine in a variety of scenes that feel like what they are: filler.
Because the actor who plays the main role apparently refused to work more than two days, the plot then needs to find other ways to go, and the writers chose these dull discussions among the hunters. I can think of a myriad superior ways to fill space, but apparently those behind Apex thought endless yammering among forgettable characters.
Only one minor saving grace occurs here: Neal McDonough as the most skilled of the hunters. McDonough doesnít seem to realize heís in a cheap piece of crap, so he actually attempts to act.
Alas, try as he might, McDonough canít redeem this atrocious movie. Even by the low low low standards of basic direct-to-video action fare, Apex becomes an utter failure.