Beast is now available to rent.
Since the beginning of cinema, the spectacle of man vs nature has always been fascinating. From 1920s travelogues to creature features of the 1950s and Jurassic Park, Jaws and Crawl, there will always be an appetite for simple ideas drenched in Hollywood spectacle. In the last 20 years, we’ve seen leading men face their own battles with the natural world, from Liam Neeson’s mano-a-wolfo in The Gray to Leo’s almighty scuffle with a bear in The Revenant, and now, we have Idris Elba going bare-knuckle boxing with a lion.
Baltasar Kormákur’s movie sees Elba and his daughters Meredith and Norah travelling to Saharan South Africa to visit the village their deceased mother grew up in, meeting charming uncle (and South African poster boy) Sharlto Copley’s Uncle Martin along the way. Beast moves at a lion’s pace, quickly assembling its framework with the necessary beats. Uncle Martin is the guardian of a preserve and a notorious anti-poacher, immediately setting the stage for various threats beyond the feline lurking in the shadows. While Beast’s main threat is the lion itself, Kormákur takes the time to demonstrate that these animals are not inherently violent and thus establishes an overarching theme of human intervention perverting the natural order within these lands.
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Once Beast’s remarkably muscular cat claws its way onto the screen, this B-movie story takes on an intensely frightening demeanour, perhaps more so than any other horror in 2022. Impossibly loud silences are unexpectedly eviscerated by a lion’s roar or the cataclysmic pulverisation of a car door as it charges headfirst into the family’s increasingly busted metal jeep of salvation. While Beast plays up its terrifying potential, it also pushes thrilling-yet-comedic ridiculousness to the fore. For example, Sharlto Copley’s hilarious exit sees him remarking to the girls that he believes the lion has vanished as it shoots through the air toward the back of his head. Beast is the kind of film where it wouldn’t be entirely out of place for the lion to have acquired a gun before going on a rampage.
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Inevitably, Kormákur finds alternative threats to preoccupy the family in the form of money-hungry poachers as well as some of the world’s worst escape driving. But we finally arrive at the moment that Beast has promised us since the poster’s release. It’s during Elba’s final confrontation with the lion Beast’s suspension of disbelief is completely vaporised. Given that we’ve seen this monstrously powerful big cat decapitate and dismember multiple men in seconds, the sheer amount of time Elba is able to go toe-to-toe with the King of the Jungle is hilarious, right down to the sucker punch to the face, a la Raging Bull.
Nonetheless, Beast is quite entertaining for the B-movie calibre entertainment it purports to offer. It’s fully aware of what it has sold itself as and does not try to overthink or mislead in what you came to see – a man putting up his fists and having a full-on brawl with a lion. But honestly, if you weren’t sold on “Idris Elba fights a lion with his bare hands”, what more could you want to know about Beast?
Beast is quite entertaining for the B-movie calibre entertainment it purports to offer. It’s fully aware of what it has sold itself as and does not try to overthink or mislead in what you came to see – a man putting up his fists and having a full-on brawl with a lion.