Primal (2019)

Movie Title: Primal

Year Released: 2019

Rated: R

Runtime: 1h 37min

Genre: Action, Thriller

Director: Nick Powell

Writer: Richard Leder

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand, Jeremy Nazario, LaMonica Garrett, Michael Imperioli, Isaac Santiago, Braulio Castillo hijo, Tommy Walker, Sewell Whitney, Leon Andrew Joseph, Sebastian Vázquez, John Lewis, Rey Hernandez, Drake Shannon, Jaime Irizarry, Daniel Salinas González

Review: Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage) is a hunter and collector of exotic animals. On his latest excursion he captures a priceless white jaguar. To collect a big payday, Frank and his cat must board a ship, along with a deadly assassin (Kevin Durand) being extradited back to the U.S., and travel safely across the sea. But wouldn't you know it, that death-dealing dude breaks free and lets the jag loose! Now it's time to hunt or be hunted as Cage takes on two predators in the ship-going survival thriller Primal!

Okay. Let me get this straight... we have Nicolas Cage as a big game hunter, a lethal assassin stalking and killing off various crew members and government agents, and a majestically murderous white jaguar that's also stalking and killing off various crew members and government agents - and all of this takes place on a cargo ship in the middle of the ocean? What's not to like? Well, not as much as you'd think.

Primal is a movie that should have come out in the mid-90s and starred post-Demolition Man Stallone. Instead we get middle-aged Cage, who's the most entertaining part of a movie that should be so over-the-top ridiculous that B-Movie fans should be clamoring to see. But the fact is... Primal is boring. Wait. Maybe "boring" is the wrong word. Actually, the problem is that there is zero tension. For the plot revolving around a professional killer and a killer cat running around tight corridors and unexpectedly picking off people, no one really seems scared or to care. It's kind of disappointing. Without any of the tension we as the audience don't really get involved in the story. The most tension-filled thing in the movie is Famke Janssen's face thanks to some rather unnecessary plastic surgery.

All Cage cares about is the jaguar, and that's fine. That's his character. The assassin guy is a typical bad guy. He's crazy and deadly and dime-a-dozen. And Famke Janssen's "doctor" is fine. She doesn't really do much and is really there to try to convince Cage's Frank Walsh to go from hunter to humanitarian.

The action scenes are done very well and Cage, who actually gets locked in a cage at one point, think about that for a minute, entertains with his quips and crazy charisma, but doesn't quite come off as this expert hunter, especially in the opening scene with the white jaguar. It's kinda silly.

With all that said, I did enjoy Primal, mostly for Cage and wondering how many cast members were gonna get pounced by the dreaded jag. It's not for everyone, but if you enjoy Cage's movie choices in the last decade, or want to see if Famke Janssen can actually blink, frown or smile during the runtime, or want to determine if the CGI jaguar looks realistic or not, then Primal will having you roaring... sometimes with laughter.

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: The script was originally entitled "Persona Non Grata." When Lionsgate decided that title would be too difficult to market, Dan Grodnik renamed it "Primal."


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