by Hope Madden
The first question to ask when evaluating any new Nicolas Cage movie: Insanity, inanity or a bit of both?
Primal looks like it could be a good balance. Stunt man turned director Nick Powell puts Cage, playing authority hating big game hunter Frank Walsh, on a cargo ship headed from South America toward the States. Walsh’s cargo: some parrots, a couple of venomous snakes, some angry monkeys, and one mass of unconvincing CGI he’s calling a white jaguar.
That Gameboy-quality big cat is not the only predator on board. US Marshalls load chained madman Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand), headed for the US to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Why a ship instead of an airplane? Why this particular ship? Why is this kid on board instead of in school? Why is Famke Janssen (that is Famke Janssen, right?) on board?
I will not ridicule a child. I will not ridicule sad—nay, tragic—plastic surgery, either.
Powell and writer Richard Leder slap together concepts from Die Hard, Rambo, The Silence of the Lambs, Snakes on a Plane, Aliens—and don’t forget Life of Pi. The result is dumber than the sum of its parts.
Primal contains an awful lot of stupid, but the sound is so muddy it’s hard to catch much dialog. At least we have that small mercy to be thankful for.
Is Cage good? No, not really. His inner crazy is set on simmer and Leder’s dialog is far too weak to offer Cage many options for little burst of weirdness. Cage’s chemistry with Janssen is nonexistent. There are also far too many stretches between bad CGI – I mean, white jag sightings.
It’s a ludicrous mess, but not quite ludicrous enough to make it fun. What could have been most enjoyable as insane winds up being mainly inane.