You can just picture the pitch meeting for Primal as a bunch of L.A suits sat round a huge table yelling at each other; “Its Nic Cage right and he’s a hunter and he captures this cat, a big rare man eating cat, but he has to get it back to the US so he goes on a ship right but on the ship is some psycho assassin and they escape, the cat and the psycho right and Cage kicks both their asses.”
The above description is pretty much the whole plot of Primal and yes it is as brilliant and barmy as it sounds. Directed by Nick Powell better known for his stunt work and penned by Richard Leder whose first feature it is, few people could pull off such a fantastically stupid set up but what makes Primal work is the acting enigma that is Nicholas Cage.
Cage alongside the sensational Samuel L. Jackson and legendary Liam Neeson is an immensely talented actor who somehow makes the most ridiculous movie wonderfully watchable. This trio share many qualities in common, all three work tirelessly (Cage made 6 movies including this in 2019) they all often play action heroes who are far more mortal than superhuman and when truly challenged all three can deliver moving and passionate performances.
That said the majority of this trio’s work is in the action and thriller genres but when any of these actors are involved you know the movie will be above average elevated by their attendance alone. An added element when Cage is concerned comes in his injection of insanity to many of his roles delivering off kilter moments that make the price of admission alone worth paying.
In Primal, Cage is more hinged than usual and as cigar smoking exotic animal hunter Frank Walsh we get a grumpy cynic with a very well hidden heart of gold who cares more for his animals than the people around him. Having captured a rare white Jaguar that locals believe is a man munching demon he is determined to get it safely delivered and retire on the earnings however his easy ride gets complicated very quickly.
The military is transporting maniacal mercenary Richard Loffler (star of Swamp Thing and The Strain, Kevin Durand) on the same ship accompanied by a gaggle of muscle bound marines and Navel doctor Ellen Taylor played by X-Men star Famke Janssen. This highly trained killer quickly escapes freeing Frank’s animals to cause chaos and confusion. As Loffler starts slaying the crew Frank stalks his precious cat cargo trying to stay alive until he is drawn into a hunt for the most deadly game of all.
Containing snake attacks, death by monkey and some great jaguar gore Primal is paced well keeping the action up while providing a reasonable story at the same time. The effects are competent and the support cast do a fine job. Durand more than makes up for the lack of Cage craziness crafting a fun yet flawed villain who is far from two dimensional due to his twisted back story.
Much more entertaining than it should be Primal is perfect popcorn fodder suited to those times when you want to watch a rollicking roller coaster ride rather than a deep drama. All the while Cage keeps making these movies I for one will always be watching them safe in the knowledge that I am in for an enjoyable, thrilling and often times bat shit crazy experience.
Lionsgate UK Presents Nicolas Cage in the action-packed thriller PRIMAL on Digital Download 10 February and DVD 17 February