Review by Sean Boelman
Primal, directed by Nick Powell and written by Richard Leder, is the latest straight-to-video action flick to feature cult favorite actor Nicolas Cage in an over-the-top role. Absolutely ridiculous and unfathomably dumb, but undeniably entertaining, this is exactly the type of B-movie in which fans clamor to see Cage star.
In the film, Cage plays a wildlife catcher in possession of a rare white jaguar when an assassin being transported on the same boat breaks loose and frees the collection of animals, wreaking havoc on the ship and its passengers. If that sounds like a total mess, that’s because it is. Yet there is something charming about watching Cage fight a highly skilled assassin and dealing with dangerous animals that allows this to be mindless fun.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this movie is that there are too many different storylines going on. In addition to the story involving Cage’s character and the story about the assassin, there is a menagerie of other subplots that are ultimately little more than contrived excuses to force more action sequences into the film.
Another issue with the movie is that the character development is lackluster. Although Cage’s character does have an arc, it is not subtle or gradual at all. Instead, a switch seemingly flips in the character’s head at some point in the film that causes him to change drastically. Granted, not much can be expected in terms of legitimate substance from a B-movie like this, but it is particularly noticeable here.
As expected, Cage absolutely chews the scenery in this movie. He’s over-the-top in a way that only he could be, and as a result, the film is thoroughly enjoyable to watch for the entirety of its hour-and-a-half-plus runtime. Admittedly, the performance is nearly identical to any he has given in similar genre movies, but it fits quite well here.
The action in the film is pretty entertaining as well, but there are a lot of obvious flaws in it. The fight sequences are choreographed, shot, and edited in a way that makes it clear when the real actors are involved or if doubles are being used. Additionally, with the animals storyline, some attempts are made at trying to take the movie in the horror route, and they never really work.
On a technical level, the film is about what one would expect from a B-movie action-thriller. The cinematography is messy, the CGI looks cheap, and the editing is frequently choppy. That said, the most frustrating thing about the movie is the lack of spatial geography. Although the production design is solid (and sometimes excellent), there is no sense of continuity to allow viewers to find their place within the setting.
Primal is by no means a great film, but in terms of Nicolas Cage-starring popcorn flicks made for home consumption, it’s on the more enjoyable end. Viewers who can turn off their brains and move past the ridiculousness are sure to have a fun time.
Primal is now available on VOD.