Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir Baltasar Kormakur
scr Ryan Engle
prd Baltasar Kormakur, James Lopez, Will Packer
with Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, Leah Jeffries, Tafara Nyatsanza, Naledi Mogadime, Ronald Mkwanazi, Mduduzi Mavimbela, Daniel Hadebe, Chris Gxalaba, Martin Munro, Thapelo Sebogodi
release US 19.Aug.22,
UK 26.Aug.22
22/US Universal 1h33

elba copley

Is it streaming?

elba, copley, halley and jeffries
Like a movie from the late 1970s, perhaps made between Jaws and Grizzly, this rogue lion thriller is exactly what we expect. And not much more. Everything is in its rightful place, from above-average effects to emotion-tugging family melodrama, all welded together with the sheer movie star wattage of Idris Elba. It also helps that director Baltasar Kormakur knows how to stage a variety of whizzy attack sequences.
Recently widowed doctor Nate (Elba) takes his teen daughters, serious Mer (Halley) and younger whip-smart Norah (Jeffries), to South Africa to visit their late mother's homeland. After a reunion with old pal Martin (Copley), he whisks them off for a visit to a private nature reserve. What they don't know is that evil poachers have just massacred all the lions in a pride, apart from one male, who turns into a vengeful killer attacking every human he can find. And now he has this small party of visitors trapped in the middle of nowhere.
Engle's script sets everything up with painstaking detail, dropping each clue loudly then returning to it later. This removes any surprises, although it's fun to see elements pop up on cue to add wrinkles, whether it's a dart gun, an abandoned schoolhouse or the friendly lions Martin raised from cubs. With nasty poachers lurking everywhere, it begins to feel like we need Liam Neeson's scorched-earth Taken approach. But of course Elba more than enough oomph of his own, even as a mild-mannered doctor.

As a character, Nate is written with the usual collection of flaws and heroic impulses, but Elba adds emotional undercurrents that make him easy to root for, both against the lion and as he tries to heal his fractured family. Where the script pushes him is often downright ridiculous, but Elba even brings the gravitas when he's wrestling a vicious digital lion. Halley and Jeffries are terrific as young women who get more stuck into the action than expected, and also have big emotional beats. And Copley adds some enjoyable swagger.

This was never going to be a movie that was bursting with deeper meanings, and indeed there's absolutely nothing surprising going on under the surface. There are some superbly staged jump scares, snarling battles and wicked red herrings, plus a few pointless stylised dream sequences. And it's all so preposterous that even the grisliest violence makes us smirk, leading later to stifled giggles and a couple of unintentional laughs. But we never stop being entertained for a second.

cert 15 themes, violence 20.Aug.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall