• 27 Aug - 02 Sep, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Didn’t we stop attributing human characteristics like an insatiable desire for vengeance to animals back in the late ‘80s, when Jaws: The Revenge laughably informed us, “This time it’s personal?” Apparently not. In the survival thriller Beast, Idris Elba stars as an American doctor taking his daughters on a healing pilgrimage to the South African birthplace of their late mother, only to encounter an extremely pissed lion bent on wiping out every human on the savannah after poachers kill its entire pride. In the hands of accomplished experiential action director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest), the thriller barrels along seasoned with a visceral fear factor, but not without some ludicrous plotting and dialogue. Occasionally, real-life monster movies can still provide guilty pleasures, Alexandre Aja’s Crawl, about gigantic Florida gators angered by awful weather, being a case in point. That requires sufficient speed and agility to forgive the silliness, and a self-aware wink to accompany every gnarly genre trope. Beast wants to have it both ways. Ryan Engle’s script, from a story by Jaime Sullivan, loads up on gore and distressingly close calls amped up with effective jump scares. But it’s not content to give us dumb hair-raising fun; it also aims to move us with the tender feelings and frictions of a family ruptured by tragedy. It’s a testament to the charisma and natural gravitas of Elba that we even halfway buy Dr Nate Samuels as he dodges the massive rogue male lion, at one point simultaneously stopping a deadly boom slang snake mid-strike. Sullivan reportedly pitched the movie as “Cujo with a lion,” and more horror, less sentiment might have allowed Beast to roar as the disposable late-summer entertainment it was born to be. A tense prologue shows poachers under the cloak of night wrapping up a successful hunt, during which they have killed a pride of lions, whose teeth, claws and bones fetch big money on the black market. Only the patriarch of the pride eludes them, its paw prints indicating its mighty size. A handful of men stay behind to kill the creature before it comes after them. But its stealth in the tall grass proves too much for them. As man vs. beast stories go, this one is neither the best nor the worst. But Elba and Copley are good enough actors to deliver even the most pedestrian dialogue with conviction.