Bullet Points: Prey of the Jaguar
If you are a production company and you decide you want to make a superhero themed film, you have one of two options…
- You shell out the big bucks and get the rights to pre-existing characters from the DC or Marvel Universes.
- You make up your own superhero.
Hit Entertainment and Jfw Productions went the fiscally sound, do it yourself route and from that decision 1996’s Prey of the Jaguar was born…
- The Premise: Maxwell Caulfield plays Derek Leigh, a former operative for a government agency known as the SOC. Derek had the chance to start a new life after his time in the SOC was done. Derek now owns and operates his own construction company, which allows him to support his family that includes his pregnant wife Karen (Fiona Hutchison) and his young son Jeremy (Devon Michael). The movie quickly establishes what a great dad Derek is as we see Derek and Jeremy playing a little indoor basketball and discussing Jeremy’s latest artistic creation, a superhero he calls The Jaguar. But the past comes back to haunt Derek as the Leigh Family is paid a visit by Derek’s former commanding officer conveniently known as The Commander (Stacy Keach of Raw Justice fame). The Commander comes to ask Derek if he’d like to work for him again, he breaks the news that the man Derek worked so hard to put in prison, Damien Bandera, has escaped. Derek brushes it off, it is not his problem anymore and while Bandera does have a grudge against him, Derek believes it would be impossible for Bandera to find him and his family since Bandera knew him as Agent Jason Shepherd and Shepherd is listed as deceased.
- The Villains: When it comes to direct to video action movie villains, Prey of the Jaguar has two of the absolute best. Trevor Goddard (Men of War) plays Damien Bandera. Damien has a real problem with the man now known as Derek Leigh. Derek had infiltrated the Bandera drug organization years earlier and it was that undercover work that ultimately put Damien Bandera in prison. As if sending him to prison wasn’t enough, Damien also blames Derek for the death of Damien’s drug kingpin father, who could not handle seeing his only son put behind bars. Bandera’s escape from prison is orchestrated by his right hand man Tanaka played by Steven Vincent Leigh (Deadly Bet). The elaborate escape plan includes a paid off prison guard, a fake car accident and bad guys repelling from a bridge. Once Damien Bandera is out, he wastes no time tracking down the man now known as Derek Leigh.
- The Origin Story: The impossible quickly becomes possible when we find out Damien Bandera has a mole inside the SOC that tipped him off about where the man now known as Derek Leigh is living. So one day, while Derek and his crew are on a roofing job, Bandera and Tanaka make an elaborate entrance on a scissors lift… they murder Derek’s employees, then Bandera drops the real bombshell… he informs Derek that he killed Karen and Jeremy right before he shoots Derek. The gun shot causes Derek to fall off the roof, when Bandera and Tanaka look down, they see a lifeless Derek Leigh laying on the pavement and feel that their work there is done. Not so fast… the shot to the chest that Bandera nailed Derek with, hit a steel flask that Derek took away from a vino loving member of his crew moments before Bandera and Tanaka showed up. And Derek didn’t hit the pavement below directly, he bounced off the plastic top of a dumpster. What I am saying here is… Derek is still alive unbeknownst to our villains! When he regains consciousness, Derek races home to see the walls of his home covered in the blood of his family, he also finds Jeremy’s drawings and stories about The Jaguar and the latest vigilante superhero is born and he is looking to bring Damien Bandera to justice once and for all!
Prey of the Jaguar is not going to replace Superman as my all-time favorite superhero movie, but I’d still rather watch it again than three hours of Watchmen. Maxwell Caulfield did a decent enough job as the hero, although his portrayal was much more palatable after he loses the ridiculous looking mustache. To me the MVP of the movie was Trevor Goddard, who was always so good at playing the bad guy.
One thing I’m good at is providing the readers of Bulletproof Action with some Bonus Bullet Points…
- Familiar Faces: John Fujioka of American Ninja fame, plays Master Yee. Master Yee teaches Derek the martial arts skills he’ll need to bring his son’s Jaguar character to life… Linda Blair of The Exorcist plays one of the police detectives investigating the murders of Derek’s family and employees. Linda’s Cody Johnson fancies herself a practical joker and we learn is a fan of vigilante justice.. Vincent Klyn, who will always be Fender Tremolo to me, is a drug dealer working for Damien Bandera who gets into an alley fight with The Jaguar… And last but not least is Paul Bartel who played The Toymaker, the man who supplies The Jaguar with all his cool weapons. You may remember Bartel from movies like Munchies, Escape From L.A. or Chopping Mall.
- If You Ever: …felt a movie should begin with a scene featuring Trevor Goddard in his drawers, then this is the movie for you.
- Nice Vest: Linda Blair sports a vest in Prey of the Jaguar that would make the fashion police’s heads spin and vomit pea soup. She also thinks she is really cool when she uses her “cellular phone” that is only a generation or two removed from the one Zack Morris so proudly used on Saved by the Bell.
- Copyright Infringement: There have been a few comic book heroes with The Jaguar moniker over the years. The first was released in what is known as the Silver Age of Comic Books (1956-1970) by Archie Comics. Archie’s The Jaguar is about an archaeologist named Ralph Hardy who discovers a mystical belt while on a dig in Peru that turns him into a human jaguar! I’m pretty sure the producers of Puma Man stole this idea for the plot of their wonderfully awful movie.