Beast Review: The Mane Event

Elba goes full Liam Neeson

If you’re planning to see the new Idris Elba movie, there’s a recommended way to buy a ticket. Simply approach the box office, face the ticket matron, slowly withdraw your reading glasses, raise them to your eyes, ready your best Alyssa Edwards impression, and request one ticket for… BEAST! Yes, like most of Alyssa Edwards’ drag, Beast makes zero sense. It’s a hot mess and kind of basic. But it’s tons of fun, baby.

Beast sees Idris Elba in full Liam Neeson mode as he endeavours to save his family from evil forces. Which, in this case, happens to be a bloodthirsty lion. The problem, however, is that I was rooting for the lion throughout the film.

The latest film from Baltasar Kormákur (Adrift), Beast is a perfectly ridiculous family-in-peril actioner. The script, written by Ryan Engle and Jaime Primak Sullivan—presumably on a cocktail napkin mid-flight—sees Elba’s character Dr. Nate Samuels go on safari with his girls Mer (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries). As they venture into a reserve with their “uncle” Martin (Sharlto Copley), they encounter a bloodthirsty lion. Now, Dr. Samuels and his kids should be smarter than the kitty, but they’re just about the stupidest people ever to cross a ravenous beast in any film ever. People are rarely as stupid in a movie as they are in Beast.

 

Morons on Parade

Once the beast gnashes its teeth, Dr. Nate and the kids do little to hide from the carnivorous bloodlust. They wail on the horn of their jeep in search of assistance. When the lion’s near, they scream, shriek, cry, and blather on walkie-talkies after they split up and venture yonder into the wild. When windows of their jeep are broken and open, they sit beside them. If people are gashed, they wear their blood-soaked tatters. Every single person in Beast is a magnet for disaster and it’s hard to justify why anyone in this movies deserves to live.

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Beast nevertheless offers silly fun as it follows the family’s ludicrous effort to escape one perilous situation after another. Stupid is as stupid does. There’s a guilty thrill to be had in watching some pretty amazing CGI lions try to chomp this family to bits. The lion, admittedly, is quite the VFX spectacle and well-coordinated with the human actors. It moves with agility and is, admittedly, quite detailed. Beast isn’t as timid about feline anatomy as, say, Cats with its neutered Macavity: there’s *lots* of kitty to see here.

However, Kormákur doesn’t fully commit to the idiocy at hand. Beast could use more meat in its brisk 90 minutes. Instead, it’s a relatively tame creature feature with even-handed scares. The roars are predictable and the kills are, unfortunately, infrequent. Even Elba’s shirt is lamentably durable: for all the scratches and bites he endures, it just never comes off.

But look: Beast features Idris Elba punching, kicking, and knifing a lion. That’s way more than Liam Neeson ever did when it came to wolves.

 

Beast opens in theatres August 19.



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