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Where is Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?
Walsh’s jag isn’t the only dangerous animal in the hold. He’s also brought along some monkeys that will, he says, flay the skin from anyone who threatens their young. And a pair of snakes. “Venomous as hell,” he explains helpfully. Where is Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?
The best way to deal with Cage’s, um, unique acting style these days would seem to be to let him run wild, and just have everyone react to what he does. That was the tactic employed by Mom and Dad, Left Behind and the recent Color Out of Space – none of them great movies, although Color made something of its literary pedigree.
Unfortunately, in this movie the second- and third-tier actors take their cues from the star and swing for the fences. Even the animals are going for broke, from the aforementioned big cat to a chatty parrot that makes Cage’s character look like a pirate in training. But no one can beat Nic in a Cage match.
Primal was made by Nicholas Powell, whose only other directing credit is 2014’s Outcast, also starring Cage. The majority of his career has been spent as a stunt co-ordinator on such films as Resident Evil: Retribution, X-Men 3, The Bourne Identity and Muppet Treasure Island.
That focus on stunts may help explain why other aspects of the film – lighting for one thing – have been given short shrift. And why Cage’s character would shoot two tranquilizer darts into an adversary, then come out of hiding for a bit of hand-to-hand and knife-to-knife combat when the guy’s about to pass out anyway. And I added the Treasure Island credit to make it clear why, whenever the big cat leaps at someone, it looks like a Muppet being flung across the room.
Primal, which had a brief theatrical release in the U.S. last November, isn’t gonzo enough (or Gonzo enough!) to qualify as a guilty pleasure. But if you can’t wait for Cage’s turn as a murderous, larger-than-life big-cat aficionado, this may tide you over until it arrives.
Primal is available on demand on July 28.
1.5 stars out of 5