Movie Review: Trejo and Chinlund, a heist and an Afghan Monster fought for laughs — “The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus”

Glib, aged mercenaries face off with an Army patrol trapped with them in an Afghan tunnel in “The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus,” a C-movie that wants to embrace the campy cheese, but never gets closer than arm’s length.

Starring cigar-chomping tough guy Nick Chinlund, who’s been around since “Lethal Weapon 3” and “Con Air,” and the elder statesman of big screen badasses, Danny Trejo (“Machete”), it’s a lightweight mashup of combat film, heist picture and creature feature set in The Graveyard of Empires, Afghanistan.

The “combat film” part follows a patrol of GIs as they stumble into a firefight that was provoked by the heist that the geezers — including Adrian Paul, Kevin Grevioux, whose voice is so deep it’s seismic, and Fito De LaParra, who is Trejo’s 70something contemporary — just pulled off with disguises, a tank, machine guns and a machete.

Survivors of the combat patrol stumble into a tunnel where the “special forces” guys — that’s how they identify themselves — have stashed these cases of loot that they just grabbed.

As we’ve seen in the movie’s opening tunnel-dwelling Taliban fighters and chemists snatched by the blue, four-eyed beast they know as “Karnoctus,” things are about to turn even less survivable.

What WAS that?

“Maybe a bear or something?”

Matt Musgrove, Masika Kalysha, Benny Mora, Mingyu Chu and Jacob Charlot are among those playing the soldiers, mostly generic and indistinguishable from each other save for their ethnicity. We give them a glance and figure we shouldn’t get too attached, because somebody’s got to be Karnoctus fodder, right?

We barely have time to note the cute rapport that the 60something Chinlund has with the spry and pushing-80 Trejo when “Vega, ” Trejo’s character, jumps into an army truck and makes his early first-act exit.

Maybe we think, “Hey, they’re going to fetch a “chopper” to haul their loot out? Why don’t they, uh, put the crates in the truck and take it to the chopper?” Maybe not. “Thinking” isn’t what we’re here for.

Don’t overthink the GI who is walking and talking moments after his field-tracheotomy, either.

The beast itself is a dude in a furry suit on all fours who looks like he recovered after Bill Shatner shot him off that jetliner wing.

The frights and fights are standard issue — nothing scary, nothing that fun either.

The first scene Taliban prey joke around and find out. “Are you HIGH?” The GIs try to play things by the book, the “special forces” fakers stage their shootouts to Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country.”

The mission debrief on “The Prey” is that it’s not remotely exciting or scary enough to be worth a look, and not nearly goofy enough to be “so bad it’s fun.”

Rating: unrated, violence, profanity

Cast: Nick Chinlund, Masika Kalysha, Kevin Grevioux, Matt Musgrove, Benny Mora, Aaron Paul and Danny Trejo

Credits: Directed by The Hensman Brothers, scripted by Matthew Hensman and Gustavo Sainz de la Peña. A Lennexe release.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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