Idris Elba fights a lion. This is what Beast promises, and this is what Beast delivers. No more. No less. The purity of it — the bald-faced simplicity! — is sort of beautiful.
This is where we are in the cursed summer of 2022. We quaver with existential ennui as the planet tries to throw us off with pandemics, heatwaves, wildfires, landslides, dust storms, droughts and floods. But we can cheer in a whistling-past-the-graveyard way as Idris Elba punches a prodigious pissed-off pussycat in the, well, puss, as if to say, “Not today, Mother Nature! Not today!”
To be fair to the lion, he is absolutely correct to be pissed off: poachers killed his whole family, and tried to kill him too, so he is out for revenge. All homo sapiens are in his sights. You may want to root for the lion instead. We humans are only getting what we deserve.
Is it a failure of Beast, or a success of it, that it tries to treat this nonsense earnestly, as if it could be the culmination of real events that actual human beings would encounter? I mean, this ain’t The Revenant or anything, but the script — by Ryan Engle (Rampage, The Commuter) and Jaime Primak Sullivan (Breaking In) — is heavy with heartache: it’s not really about a killer lion, you see, it’s about a grieving man trying to reconnect with his angry (and also grieving) kids. Elba’s (The Suicide Squad, Hobbs & Shaw) American doctor Nate Daniels has come to Africa with his daughters, teen Mer (Iyana Halley) and tween Norah (Leah Jeffries), in order for them all to heal. Because his wife has died, of course — it’s The Movies’ go-to shortcut for inducing Feelings in men. So Nate is hurting. Plus his girls blame him for not being around enough, or something. The point is that there are additional females of the species motivating Nate to experience emotions that cause him to fight a lion.
There is Serious Drama here, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, Mer is wearing a Jurassic Park T-shirt when they arrive at the game reserve where Mom’s old friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley: Gringo, Free Fire) is a warden. Later there will be an attack by an apex predator as humans cower in and around a vehicle that isn’t protecting them like it is intended to. (Copley also gets to fight the lion, but not as much as Elba.) The CGI lion isn’t completely convincing, but director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest, 2 Guns) does whip up some momentarily diverting suspense as the lion stalks and attacks.
Still, mostly what was running through my brain during Beast was Monty Python’s brilliant extended Flying Circus sketch “Scott of the Antarctic”, in which Michael Palin’s dimbulb actor, on the set of movie in which he is portraying polar explorer Robert Scott, insists that they can’t cut his lion-fighting scene, even if there are no lions at the South Pole, because “the lion is in the contract.” And Eric Idle’s producer agrees: “He fights the lion.” It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and it cast a hilarious, unavoidable shadow over this movie.
At least Beast is actually set in Africa.
more films like this:
• Black Sheep [Prime US | Prime UK | Apple TV]
• Snakes on a Plane [Prime US | Prime UK | Apple TV | HBO Max US]
Review of the Year, based on the title alone!
sounds like Jaws: The Revenge, or The Ghost and the Darkness with family moments…
And I was trying so hard not to say, “This time…it’s personal.”
It’s very familiar in lots of ways.
Best lion attacks: THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS. (Both appearing daily in Chicago.)