Nicolas Un-Caged – that’s what you could call this man versus nature actioner. Nicolas Cage returns to his action roots with Primal, a high octane action film which takes subtlety and tosses it overboard. Cage hasn’t been this on-form in an action movie in years, embracing the absurdity of it all and having a great time in the process.
Cage plays Frank Walsh, a big-time game hunter who has managed to capture a mythical white jaguar in the Brazilian jungle. On his way back to the US, the cargo ship he is using to transport his animals is commandeered by the military to transport a deadly assassin, Loffler (Kevin Durand) back to the USA. Things take a turn when the assassin escapes, releasing the animals in his wake. With the aid of Famke Janssen’s Naval doctor, Frank must recapture the animals, stop the assassin and get the ship back on course.
Director Nick Powell’s film embraces its B-movie roots and offers up a gloriously over-the-top premise in a film which plays like Under Siege meets Deep Rising (which ironically co-star Janssen). Cage is back to his Con Air and The Rock best, chewing the scenery as he stalks his way through the ship using everything from crossbows and blow-darts to take-out his prey. This isn’t the wacky, wester-kabuki Cage which we’ve seen in recent years – this is Cage in full action hero mode. In recent years we’ve seen the Golden Age of Cage with the likes of Mandy and Color Out Of Space and while Primal might not be a dreamlike oddity like those films, it does deserve to be seen as a recent high point.
Primal plays like the type of movie which ruled the multiplex in the 1990s. Twenty-odd years ago this movie would have had a $70 million budget and a wide cinematic release. However, the landscape of movies has changed since then, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fun to be had here. This is as entertaining as anything else out there at the moment. I will admit that I was worried that the CGI jaguar may distract from the action, but it didn’t bother me at all – I wasn’t annoyed by CGI cat action in 1996’s The Ghost And The Darkness – so this is on display in Primal wasn’t going to bother me. Stuntman Nick Powell keeps things simple, letting the tension do the talking as the excitement builds towards Primal’s mano a mano finale.
If you go into Primal having embraced its bonkers premise, then you’ll be fully entertained by what it has to offer. It’s never going to win any awards (but let’s be honest, that was never the intention), but it will capture your attention throughout its running-time. We often lament that they don’t make e’m like they used to, but Primal shows that sometimes they still do!