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Review: PRIMAL (2019)

Nicolas Cage as an exotic animal hunter versus a political assassin and a white jaguar. All on a ship somewhere out at sea. Sounds like it could have potential, right? Maybe not quite the Nicolas Cage versus eldritch horrors from the stars potential of Color Out of Space. But potential nonetheless. Director Nick Powell, a stuntman turned director, should be able to deliver some good action scenes, right? Primal should be an enjoyable cheese-covered popcorn film, right? Right?

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Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage, Willy’s Wonderland, Mandy) captures animals for zoos, and he’s hit the jackpot. A white jaguar, something nobody has seen before. All that stands between him and a huge payday is a boat trip back to the US.

That trip becomes a bit more complicated when the feds decide to use the same ship to transport a political assassin gone rogue, Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand, Legion, Dark Was The Night) back to stand trial. Of course, the highly trained and heavily armed team of US Marshals can’t keep him locked up. He escapes and sets Frank’s animals, including the Jaguar, free.

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My hopes for Primal were dashed pretty much right away. Cage looks like Indiana Jones with a hangover. The CGI used for the shots of him capturing the Jaguar are awful. I mean films from The Asylum, awful.

The film must have blown its entire budget on Cage and Famke Janssen (Deep Rising, X-Men), who plays a doctor. Because not only are the effects crap, but for an action film there’s precious little action. And most of that is of the most absolutely generic fist fighting variety. There’s none of the kind of set pieces you would expect from a film like this.

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Equally, generic are the clichés Primal serves up. Of course, one of the Marshals is actually NSA and has their own agenda. And the captain has his young son along on the trip, so we can have a kid in danger as well as the film’s token female. And did I mention Frank has a couple of highly venomous snakes among his catch, but no antivenom?

Primal could have been a fun, claustrophobic thriller. But it blows its potential at every chance it gets. Even Cage seems bored and just going through the motions. I was hoping he would crank up the overacting and bring the film to life, but no such luck.

Lionsgate will release Primal in theatres and on-demand on November 8th.

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