The Beast.jpg

I swear, I don’t know what happened. It’s like I checked my email for five minutes, and next thing I knew, there’s like 75 new movies in town. They’re all playing at odd times and odd hours, so for this week, I literally flipped a coin to decide what to watch. The results of the experiment are as follows.

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In “Beast” (Universal Pictures-Will Packer Productions-RVK Studios, 2022, 93 min.), Idris Elba plays a widower doctor trying to reconnect with his two daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries) during a vacation at his friend Sharlto Copley’s African game preserve. It’s basically “Cujo Redux” with Elba forced to defend his family against a vicious lion. (Pace “Cujo”, I believe the lion rages because he’s rabid.)  

Now, in real life, when a human being gets into it with a savage jungle critter, my money’s usually on the critter – just ask Siegfried & Roy or the nearest park ranger. Do I really need to declare “spoiler alert”? Is anyone out there betting on the lion? 

Balthasar Kormákur’s lean, efficient thriller isn’t the kind of movie that’s going to win awards, but its B-movie roots make for a propulsive popcorn muncher. Kormákur is a native of Iceland, and he’s been making theatrical films for 22 years; I thought that “Beast” was the first film I’d seen by him, but when I was doing research post-screening, I realized that I had seen his “2 Guns” (2013), starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.

“Beast” boasts some deft Steadicam work, particularly one show that picks up Elba and his kids driving up to Copley’s house, brings in Copley to welcome them, and follows the whole group into the house and into a room where framed photographs by Elba’s late wife hang, to be remarked upon; I liked the way Kormákur establishes a house tour in one shot.

 For all I know, Elba’s animal entry is completely CGI, but it’s impressive enough to get the job done. Don’t ask me how “Beast” manages to be both anti-poacher and pro-man-killing-lion. Such are the muddled politics of Hollywood narratives like this. And for animal lovers who might be left queasy and uneasy by “Beast”’s savage action, go to Netflix, call up “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and watch Michael Palin have a very different lion battle in their sketch “Scott of the Antarctic”.


Well, the my coin flip experiment failed. The Beast has the left the building but it’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime, AppleTV, xfinity, VUDU, DirecTV and YouTube.

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