While the story idea is familiar, it’s well done and worth seeing.
by Martin Hafer
Heatstroke is a film that may remind you of other films–especially if you are a film nut like me. it’s a reworking of the basic premise of Run of the Arrow from 1957. A few years later, The Naked Prey took this story and transported it to South Africa. Later, the same plot was reworked by Mel Gibson in Apocalypto–this time in Central America. Now, with Heatstroke, the plot once again returns to South Africa. Fortunately, although it has been recycled many times, the basic story idea is exciting and worth your time. A divorced man who studies hyenas is set to take his girlfriend with him to South Africa to once again work in the field with these creatures. However, just before they leave, he receives a call from his ex-wife–who is frantic because their daughter is having serious problems. So, reluctantly, the dad agrees to take the kid with him on this trip.
Unfortunately, this does NOT result in some wonderful bonding experiences, the girl is incredibly obnoxious. On one hand you can understand this since she comes from a broken home. But, on the other, there’s no excuse for being this obnoxious and disaffected. So, after a few days, they can’t take any more and agree to send the girl back home to her mother–and the teen can’t wait to get away from Africa. So far, none of this sound much like the other films I mentioned. However, on the way back to civilization, the film quickly becomes much like these other movie–these people suddenly are in a struggle for their lives as they’re being pursued by folks intent on killing them.
Who are these nasty killers? They are gun runners and poachers–and after the family accidentally happens upon them in action, they are now the prey of these sick fiends. However, survival won’t be easy. Not only do they have these murderers chasing them after they killed the father, but the two women must contend with no water, no food as well as being exposed to the elements. Additionally, the hyenas they were studying might just see them as food!
Aside from Stephen Dorff who plays the father who is murdered, most of the cast are unknown to me and will probably be unknown to you. However, this does not mean that they are ineffective in their roles–the cast do a very nice job. Plus, I appreciate that this must have been a very tough shoot due to their working in the middle of nowhere. While I have spent a lot of time in South Africa where the movie was shot, I deliberately avoided the inhospitable region where they filmed Heatstroke (believe me, there are a lot of wonderful places there which really need to be seen first!).
Despite a bit of cursing and violence, this is a pretty good family film provided the kids are older. Well directed and acted, this film is worth a look. And, if you get a chance, see if you can find a copy of The Naked Prey–it’s rather forgotten but seems to make the most of this simple story idea.