I knew this was going to be a stinker when I saw the trailer for it. The people who cut the trailer also knew it, bending over backwards to try not to tell the viewer that Primeval was about a giant crocodile. (It’s the same approach the folks who make trailers employ on 99 percent of foreign language movies: They try not to show scenes where anyone speaks in the hopes that no one will notice the movie isn’t in English.) All the hoo-ha about “the most prolific serial killer in history” was just a sleight of hand to try to make you think of Freddy, Jason, Chucky, Michael Myers, etc. — anything to avoid the awful truth. And the awful truth is pretty awful indeed.
Even in the realm of oversized animal movies, this is a singularly appalling effort. The screenplay comes from the pens of John Brancato and Michael Ferris, the purveyors of such high-grade fertilizer as Catwoman (2004). Actually, this movie makes Catwoman look pretty good by comparison. It was at least funny. This is mostly just dull — not to mention borderline incoherent.
Tim Manfrey (TV actor Dominic Purcell) plays a television journalist who’s in bad with the network over some shady reportage. As punishment, he is teamed up with Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton, The Benchwarmers), the network’s specialist in fluff pieces on house pets, to go to Africa to do a story on serial killer Gustave — a legendary monster croc, who has just made the mistake of eating a white woman. (The film thinks it’s very high-minded to point out that world attention has only now focused on the beast owing to the race factor.)
Worse yet, Manfrey’s boss, Roger Sharpe (Patrick Lyster, The Bone Snatcher), has taken on a Frank Buck mind-set and wants this antisocial set of luggage-on-legs brought back alive. To this end, we’re given a sub-Crocodile Hunter crocodile hunter, Matt Collins (Gideon Emery, best known for his sterling portrayal of the guy who’s outwitted by chimpanzees in the recent Coca-Cola commercial). And since the movie is low on star power (or hadn’t you noticed?), Orlando Jones (a fine comedic actor who just can’t seem to get a break) and J/orgen Prochnow (a fine actor who simply never met a paycheck he didn’t like) are tacked onto the proceedings as a comic-relief cameraman and an embittered crocodile hunter respectively.
All of this still might have had some silly amusement value had the film gone for pure exploitative cheese value, but that was not to be. There’s a pointless socially relevant subplot about politics in Africa that eats up footage and affords us a low-wattage human bad guy (no prizes for guessing his fate) whose shameless perfidy is obvious from the moment he walks onscreen. The crocodile effects range from the nearly adequate to the laughably bad, and the attempts to mask budget limitations by staging most of his marauding at night don’t really help.
On the plus side — well, on the possibly instructive side — the film does demonstrate that it is perhaps wiser not to huddle together in a rickety gazebo perched over the water when a 25-foot reptile with a voracious appetite is on the prowl. This information may one day save your life. On the other hand, not seeing this movie will save you eight bucks or so right now. Rated R for strong graphic violence, brutality, terror and language.
â reviewed by Ken Hanke