Thursday, August 18, 2022

'Beast'; Tension and not much else

Idris Elba provides Beast with a  major draw. But Elba's presence can't offset an improbably scripted thriller in which Elba's character and two daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) are threatened by a vengeful and highly motivated lion. A group of poacher's killed the beast's entire pride, turning the lion into a killer of humans. The movie begins to resemble a Cujo knockoff -- only set in a South African game park. Early on, Elba's Dr. Nate Samuels, guilty about not having seen early signs of his late wife's cancer, travels with his kids from the US to South Africa. He  hooks up with an old friend and wildlife protector (Sharlto Copley). Samuels hopes to strengthen his bond with his kids by visiting the country where his wife was raised. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur follows a predictable course, setting up scenes in which the lion (CGI) threatens to kill its human prey. A vague thematic connection arises: The lion failed to protect his charges and Dr. Samuels fears that he won't be able to keep his daughters alive. A couple of fuzzy dream sequences don't add much, but the movie whips up tension by adopting a horror movie tone. For  a time, the characters are confined inside a van as the lion stages one pounding assault after another. There's no faulting the cast but the screenplay isn't really fresh enough to create much cinematic roar. Oh well, Beast at least has the decency to confine itself to an economical 90-minute running time. 

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