If you were hoping that Nicolas Cage’s latest movie “Primal,” in which he plays a big game trapper, was as good as 2018’s trippy horror film “Mandy,” alas, it is not.
The low-budget action movie, which pits him against a psychotic criminal on board a freighter ship while the deadly animals he’s trapped are set loose, had the potential to be “so good it’s bad,” but it’s not over-the-top enough to be fun.
The film starts with Cage’s character, Frank Walsh, successfully bagging a rare white jaguar in a Brazilian jungle. He knocks it out with his own special blend of curare after luring it with various dead animals.
The sub-par CGI is just awful. Other animals, including monkeys and snakes, are probably also created by CG, but look far less fake. (The tiger in “Mandy,” by comparison, was 100% real.) The only animal that might be real: The parrot that keeps following Cage’s character despite his trying to shake it.
Walsh boards a freighter with his animals — the same freighter that’s been chosen to transport dangerous assassin Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand), who’s been arrested for killing a government official and “crimes against humanity” in several countries. He can’t fly because of a brain condition, so this “beat-to-hell” ship is the only logical choice. Naturally.
Sure enough, Loffler gets loose and then frees most of Walsh’s animals to add to the chaos. Which means one good guy gets bitten by a bushmaster snake (bad luck, dude) and a cook meets his maker from Walsh’s monkeys when he messes with one of their babies.
There are some amusing lines, such as when Walsh yells, “Take it easy with my cat!” And when he warns the other people on the freighter after the animals have been set loose: “Don’t go anywhere near the snakes. They’re venomous as hell.”
But the tired mechanics of the plot — Loffler kills several people, takes hostages, has a few showdowns with Walsh — quickly wear thin.
Famke Janssen (of James Bond and X-Men fame) has a thankless role as the damsel in distress-slash-love interest. Michael Imperioli is also a long way from “The Sopranos” as the NSA agent bringing Loffler in.
The lighting for most of the film is also so dark, it’s hard to tell what’s going on, even when the white jaguar enters the picture.
The running joke is that Walsh insists the “ghost cat,” which was a legendary predator in Brazil, isn’t a man-eater… until the film’s end. (The villain’s fate is mercifully not shown. The gore level here isn’t particularly high.)
If you still want to see “Primal,” it’s currently at Redbox for $1.75 rental or on VOD and Amazon for $5.99.
Rating: 1/2 paw out of 4 paws