If somebody asks me if I want to watch a movie starring Nic Cage, my answer is always and unequivocally, “You bet your sweet ass, I do.” I, like most everyone in the world, appreciate the art that is a Nic Cage movie. Is it always a good movie? No. Is it always a movie worth watching? Very much yes. So, when PRIMAL scooted its way toward me, I was there faster than you can say, “Man-eating white jaguar.”
PRIMAL was written by Richard Leder and directed by Nick Powell. It stars the incomparable Nicolas Cage as illegal animal seller Frank Walsh, Famke Janssen as military doctor Ellen Taylor, LaMonica Garret as macho John Ringer, Michael Imperioli as the mysterious agent Paul Freed and Kevin Durand as one creepy bad guy named Richard Loffler. Durand is truly at his best when he is playing the bad guy and struggles when he plays roles like Barry Burton in Resident Evil Retribution. His performance as a highly trained killer in PRIMAL is perfect for him.
I was worried during the opening that I wouldn’t like PRIMAL. The CGI was obvious and Nic Cage was doing his thing but I grew to love it pretty quickly. The opening finds Frank Walsh in the middle of a rainforest trying to capture a predatory animal. Surprise! It’s a rare white panther and he wants to sell it to the highest bidder. He shoots the animal with a tranquilizer dart and into the cage it goes to be sold. The white Jaguar is a legendary animal in the area and you think this is going to be like Congo where it’s animals gone wild but PRIMAL throws a curveball in the form of Loffler, a military-trained killer that is being extradited to America secretly. Due to a condition that will kill him if he changes altitude, Loffler is being sent by boat to the states and it just so happens to be the same boat Walsh and his menagerie of various lethal animals is on.
When Loffler uses his Oscar-worthy acting skills to bust out of his cage, he runs loose in the ship fully armed and lets all of Walsh’s animals free, too. That means not only do they have to find a highly trained AND armed assassin but they have to deal with venomous snakes, territorial monkeys, and a throat-ripping white jaguar. Worst. Boat ride. Ever.
PRIMAL reminds me of late 90’s action films like Anaconda where the animals aren’t the only problem but they sure don’t help and you can’t trust anyone. There is a ton of action and it is just a lot of fun. I found myself really enjoying the fight. I will say that the film was about 10-15 minutes too long and the acting didn’t always hit the mark. Many of the side characters were really stiff and sometimes Janssen was a bit melodramatic, even given the situation. That said, can we PLEASE talk about Nic Cage? He rarely ever just goes middle ground in a scene and PRIMAL is no exception.
One of my favorite moments was when Walsh and Loffler run into each other and get into a brawl. Durand is doing his thing and being great but Cage is yelling and grunting with every move like he’s a female tennis player. It is the most fantastic scene in the entire movie and Cage is so extra.
This movie is a ton of fun. I love kitchen sink action movies like this where there’s a little bit of everything causing problems. There’s fighting, gore, guns, isolation and wild animals. It’s like Jumanji but with less family-friendly content and more grunting. If you’re looking for a wildly fun action flick, I would highly recommend PRIMAL. It is a hell of a good time. PRIMAL arrives on Blu-ray and Digital on January 7, 2020 and includes a special feature focusing on the making of PRIMAL.