Review: “Primeval”

When making a monster movie, the whole point is to either celebrate in the ridiculousness of the genre and use it as much as possible (“Anaconda”, “Lake Placid”), or show it sparingly and deliver a more serious and compelling drama (“Jaws”, “Jurassic Park”). The makers of “Primeval” obviously think they’re making the latter kind of film, but the result is more like a disappointing version of the former. ‘Gustave’, the giant African crocodile of the piece, is seen on screen for about three minutes at most of this direct-to video fare and even then it’s atypical sub-standard CGI.

Those scant few minutes of footage though are far more entertaining than the rest of the picture – a woefully incompetent morality movie about the West’s ignorance of African genocide. Set in Burundi during the waning moments of the Hutu-Tutsi civil war, which is more often talked about in relation to the country’s northern neighbour Rwanda, the film is much like “Blood Diamond” in its mixing of Hollywood pap with a more serious condemnation of our blind ignorance as to what goes on over there.

It’s a nicely considerate theme, especially when done in solid dramas like “The Constant Gardener”, “Catch a Fire” or “Hotel Rwanda”. This ain’t that kind of movie though, this is a low-budget and dirty little monster movie, so the attempt to push it into becoming something more memorable and political seems misguided at best. Downright insulting and inconsiderate feels far more apt a description.

Most of that is because despite its lofty goals, it still indulges in every dark continent cliche in the book. The human villains in this, notably an African warlord named ‘Little Gustave’, feel like they’re some second-tier bad guys that were simply lifted out of the woeful 70’s James Bond flick “Live and Let Die” and plonked down halfway across the world.

The main cast isn’t much help either. Dominic Purcell, the obvious ‘top’ but far less pretty half of the brotherly pair that makes “Prison Break” so eminently watchable, is the gruff lead in this and holds his own better than his cohorts – the utterly bland Brooke Langton and the still unfunny Orlando Jones. Prochnow, as the great white hunter of the piece, at least seems to be having mild fun and is aware of the trash he’s starring in.

Scenes which should be chilling, like when our heroes are being pursued by the bad guys in a truck, turn comical when they suddenly pull out several rocket launchers and start recreating a famous scene from “Clear and Present Danger”. I did enjoy Jones somehow outrunning the croc across a several mile field of high grass scene, yet the only moment that’ll stick in people’s memories is a truly ridiculous scene where the croc literally saves Langton from being raped by a mercenary.

Those few moments of camp stupidity however aren’t enough to make this even vaguely entertaining. Aside from the African location yielding nice scenery, there is often a sense of boredom on everyone’s part which makes much of this journey dull. Gustave was real and would make for a fascinating story done seriously. Instead we get direct to video schlock that’s a total croc of something alright.