Tag Archives: Ryan Engle

Lion King


by Hope Madden

Idris Elba fights a lion. I don’t know what more you want from a movie.

Elba plays Dr. Nate Samuels, on a trip with his daughters to visit his late wife’s stomping grounds, the bush in South Africa. He and the girls (Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley) had become somewhat estranged during their mother’s illness, and he hopes that staying with family friend Martin (Sharlto Copley) and touring the animal reserve he manages will help them all heal.

It’s more likely to kill them, as it turns out, because poachers have pissed off a really big lion and he’s gone all Jaws IV on the lot of them.

How is Mr. Elba? He’s very handsome. Dreamy, even. He’s also weirdly believable as a vulnerable widower, protective dad, capable doctor and badass who kicks lions in the face.

And he’s not the only one kicking lions, either. Halley gets some badassery in as well, as does Copley. Copley also takes a lot of abuse. Jeffries gets to be the smart one in a film unafraid to deliver teenage girls with agency.

This is not to say Beast is a great film. It borrows a great deal from a great many films: Jaws and Cujo most notably.

Director Baltasar Kormákur is an interesting filmmaker, able to produce smart, visceral thrillers like The Oath. Even his more flawed films —Contraband, 2 Guns, Everest, Adrift — make a valiant attempt at more than action for the sake of action. It helps when he writes. He doesn’t write this one.

Ryan Engle writes this one, and he’s not especially good, as a rule. He’s not terrible. His previous efforts — Non-Stop, The Commuter, Rampage, Breaking In — range from mediocre to poor. But Kormákur pulls a few tricks to elevate this material.

Firstly, he turns genre tropes on end by bringing a Black family to Africa and having their white guide be their wise mentor. Beyond that, there are not a lot of surprises, just a competent if uninspired adventure thriller in which Idris Elba fights a lion.

I’m in.

One Bad Mutha

Breaking In

by Hope Madden

Breaking In—the latest in a line of Liam Neeson movies—sees a desperate parent doing whatever it takes to save their tender offspring.

This time around Gabrielle Union plays Liam Neeson. Well, she plays Shaun, a woman who’s brought her two children with her to her recently-deceased father’s wooded property to get the place ready to sell. Problem is, somebody’s already there.

Shaun suddenly finds herself in the situation of trying to save her children from the men who’ve come to rob her late father’s safe.

The film was penned by Ryan Engle, who’s written two of Neeson’s own Liam Neeson movies (Non-Stop, The Commuter). The man likes a formula.

Union convinces as the family’s level-headed, savvy matriarch.

She’s locked out of her dead father’s tech-dense fortress while her kids are locked in with baddies. The clock is ticking until the cut phone cable brings the cops. Shaun’s indeterminate experiences at her shady father’s secluded property have apparently better prepared her for this event than the villains would have expected.

There could be something here.

Though little more than a mishmash of domestic thriller clichés, still, with a bit of style and a little creativity, it could make for a tense and brisk 90 minutes.

If only the bad guys moved quickly, as if they were working against a timer. Show a little urgency, fellas.

Or if all that tech—the cameras, the motion-sensor lights, the door locks—worked consistently rather than conveniently.

Or if director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) brought any style to the project. Any at all.

Home invasion movies can become pressure cookers of tension and diabolical possibility. Too bad McTeigue has no idea how to exploit any of the tenser elements Engle gives him, nor does he have the skill to draw your attention away from any of the gaping holes littered throughout this plot.

Union’s fighting against more than seedy criminals.