• Primal (Lionsgate Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: January 7th, 2020.
    Director: Nick Powell
    Cast: Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand
    Year: 2019
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    Primal – Movie Review:

    Prolific stuntman and stunt coordinator Nick Powell has been affiliated with a lot of ‘good’ movies, big time Hollywood stuff like The Bourne Identity, Gladiator and loads more. He also appears to be a real-life bad ass, a former member of the British Wushu team and a practitioner of various martial arts training styles. So hopefully he doesn’t take it personally and try to hunt me down and kill me for what I’m about to say, but his second directorial effort, 2019’s Primal, is a stinker.

    Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage) is a hard drinking, smart mouthed exotic animal hunter working out of South America who manages to capture an insanely rare albino jaguar. He gets this cat, and a bunch of other animals like parrots and killer monkeys and snakes, on a freight ship to the United States hoping to cash in on his exotic find. He shares the ship with an assortment of surly sailor types and a surprise guest – a deadly terrorist/serial killer/special ops guy named Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand) who is being escorted back to America by a Naval officer named Dr. Ellen Taylor (Famke Janssen) and a few of her tough guy associates.

    What happens next? EXACTLY what you expect. Loffler escapes his cell on the ship and starts killing off people onboard, letting loose some of Walsh’s animals in the process.

    Primal is dull. Cage doesn’t seem at all invested in his role here, occasionally offering glimpses of the manic persona he’s known for but it all seems phoned in and uninspired. And you can’t blame him, the character he’s cast as in the picture is little more than a thin cliché, devoid of much in the way of actual personality. Famke Janssen doesn’t fare any better, her Naval officer isn’t interesting either. Kevin Durand comes out as the best of the lot, he’s at least able to bring something to table and create a maniacal character that, if not wholly original, is at least marginally amusing but it isn’t enough.

    On top of the that, the CGI is problematic and this isn’t just a middle-aged guy who prefers practical effects ranting on the internet, though it is that as well. The white leopard that is so important to the storyline and that plays an integral role in not only the opening but the climax of the film is well looks like a cartoon. It never once looks even close to a living, breathing thing, it never once appears to carry any weight to it. It looks and moves like the entirely artificial creation that it is. Throw in some digitally rendered killer monkeys that don’t look any better and the poor-quality effects work featured in the picture stands out like a sore thumb.

    Cage taking on a serial killer on a boat with a bunch of killer animals on board should have, if nothing else, at least made for a fun watch. It didn’t need to be super original and it didn’t need to offer a whole lot of character depth, but it did need to give us something to hold out interest. Sadly it can’t even manage to do that.

    Please don’t beat me up, Nick Powell, it’s nothing personal.

    Primal – Blu-ray Review:

    Lionsgate Entertainment brings Primal to Blu-ray framed at 2.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 25GB disc. Shot digitally, the film is sparkly clean and minty fresh. Detail is fine, colors look very nice and black levels are strong. No compression issues and, obviously, no problems with print damage. You might see some shimmer here and there but otherwise this is a perfectly fine presentation.

    The only audio option offered here is an English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Spanish. The track is decent enough, there’s some good surround activity here and there though some scenes sound a bit more subdued than you might expect them too. Still, no problems.

    The only extra on the disc, aside from menus and chapter selection, is a ten-minute ‘making of’ featurette where Famke Janssen and Kevin Durand talking with marginal enthusiasm about the project. Powell also pops up here. There’s some behind the scenes footage include in the piece as well.

    The Blu-ray comes bundled with an insert card for a digital HD download version of the movie as well as a slipcover.

    Primal– The Final Word:

    Primal should have been great – Nicolas Cage on a boat with a serial killer and some killer animals? It didn’t happen and the project winds up committing the cardinal sin of cinema – it’s boring. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds fine but it’s light on extras. It’s tough to recommended this one to anyone but the most ardent of Cage completists or fans of weird looking CGI albino jaguars.

    Click on the images below for full sized Primal Blu-ray screen caps!