[Screen It]


(2022) (Idris Elba, Iyana Halley) (R)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Suspense/Thriller: A recent widower takes his two daughters to a South African animal preserve only to encounter a rogue lion that's killing humans seemingly out of revenge.

Dr. Nate Samuels (IDRIS ELBA) is a recently widowed doctor who's traveled to South Africa with his daughters, teenager Meredith (IYANA HALLEY) and her younger sister, Norah (LEAH JEFFRIES), to visit the area where their mother grew up. They're all staying with longtime friend Martin Battles (SHARLTO COPLEY) who helps manage the local animal reserve, mainly by protecting the animals from poachers.

Little do they know that the latter have created a lone killing machine out of a male lion that's seemingly attacking humans simply out of revenge rather than for food or over territory. When it happens upon them out in the middle of nowhere where they become stranded, the four try to figure out what to do to survive.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
Hush my darling, don't fear my darling
The lion sleeps tonight
Hush my darling, don't cry my darling
The lion sleeps tonight

"In the Jungle the Mighty Jungle" by The Tokens

Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day
You learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play
If you got a hunger for what you see, you'll take it eventually
You can have anything you want, but you better not take it from me
In the jungle, welcome to the jungle
Watch it bring you to your shun-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n, knees, knees
I'm gonna watch you bleed

"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses

After just sitting through the decently effective thriller "Beast," both of those songs came to mind. Particularly as related to the main characters who likely arrived with the first one in mind, but left with the latter fully etched into their collective psyche forever, what with their intense and harrowing encounters with a rogue lion.

Of course, to be accurate, and notwithstanding what The Tokens sang in their catchy ditty, the "king of the beasts" rarely lives in the jungle and instead predominantly populates the savannahs and grasslands of middle and lower Africa. It's in the latter where Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) and his two daughters -- Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries) -- arrive following the recent cancer death of their mother.

She grew up there, and thus Nate wants to try to give the girls one last connection to their mom, but the oldest is still bitter toward her dad in that he wasn't around for their mom's final year. All of that makes him feel both guilty and that he failed them, something he confides in with his longtime friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley), who works in the local wildlife reserve, mainly in the capacity of trying to keep the animals safe from poachers.

Little do they know that the latter have already set their fate in motion by gunning down all but the male alpha of a pride of lions. It not only managed to escape, but also hunted down many of them one by one and now has a vengeance-filled taste for human blood. Any human blood. And some fresh samples have newly arrived from out of town.

Martin offers to show Nate and the girls the local environs, and after an "awe, isn't that cute" meeting with some friendly lions, they come across the scene of a massacre in a local village where everyone has been killed -- but not eaten -- by the rogue kitty. Martin decides he must find and kill the beast before it strikes again, and you likely know or can guess what that means.

What follows are some injuries, a wrecked and now inoperable truck, and the four being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with little likelihood of anyone stumbling across them. As directed by Baltasar Kormákur from a script by Ryan Engle, the film operates from the same blueprint that fueled "Jaws," "Alien," and other such offerings where an angry and lethal critter has it out for humans who must figure out how to survive and ultimately dispatch the assailant.

There's the usual array of dumb and illogical behavior -- such as both men separately wading through bodies of water that they know are populated with crocodiles, and the teenage girl getting out and walking away from a vehicle despite knowing full well the angry lion is nearby -- that threatens to take viewers out of the suspense despite being present to stoke just that. And the obligatory quiet moments of trying to reconcile issues from the past that have flowed into the present are a little too obvious and spot-on.

But for the most part -- and thanks to good performances and direction -- the film is highly effective in what it is and is trying to do. And that is showing that the lion isn't of the "Ee-e-e-oh-mum-a-weh" variety and instead operates from an "I'm gonna watch you bleed" mindset. Welcome to the jungle, so to speak, indeed. "Beast" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Posted August 19, 2022

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