The easiest way to review Beast is as follows: if you want to watch Idris Elba attempt to cold-cock a lion, you’re in luck! Of course I want to see that and it happens in this survival thriller. The remaining hour and a half surrounding it is a disappointingly low energy affair with a screenplay that borders on laughable at times. The CG isn’t laughable, but I never forgot Elba and his daughters were battling a giant cat of pixelated proportions.
Elba is Dr. Samuels, who travels from America to South Africa for a needed excursion with daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries). The family is mourning the recent loss of the matriarch who the doctor was separated from. They aren’t the only mammals grieving. Poachers have taken out a pride of lions, but one survived. That wounded creature (emotionally and physically I suppose) is hungry for revenge.
When the Samuels clan joins an old friend and wildlife biologist (Sharlto Copley) on a nature reserve trip, that vengeful roarer disrupts it. In Cujo style, the title character torments the family in and around their immobile vehicle. The movie itself struggles to get its motor running.
Baltasar Kormakur directs and he’s well-versed in nature tales like Everest and Adrift. His work is sometimes overly flashy or bordering on boring with a jump scare every few minutes to break the monotony. There’s hardly an in-between.
Beast could have coasted on its B flick concept. Ryan Engle’s clunky screenplay gets in the way from its lame family therapy sessions to lines designed for trailers only (“We’re in his territory now!”). The script attempts to push an anti-poaching theme… as evidenced by the youngest daughter at one point exclaiming “God, I hate these poachers!” That kind of subtlety is what you get here. If you want to watch Idris Elba punch a lion, expect to fight through the mediocrity of it all.
** (out of four)