Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur, is superior to most mid-August films. In slightly under 90 minutes, it realizes its wild-animal-gone-rogue notion. The seasoned director of photography Philippe Rousselot captures some breathtaking scenes of the South African bush. There is a powerful adversary that appears to be omniscient, unbreakable, and zealously vindictive. And yes, the sequence where Idris Elba punches a lion in the face in the trailer actually occurs in the film. Because the current MGM emblem is a strange-looking CGI rendition of a lion, it’s simple to see Leo the Lion rolling his eyes in dismay.
Continuing with logos, here is another film that would have benefited from the grungy, vintage Universal logo from the 1970s appearing at the start. It used to signal to spectators that joyful, cheesy mayhem was ahead. The bloodthirsty lion in “Beast” has enough of that; he can shoot down a whole gang of guys with AR-15s while still having time to leap onto cars and reach through windows to swat at human prey. The large cat isn’t given a name in Ryan Engle’s script, so let’s call him Rory. Rory is apparently furious since poachers murdered all of his pride, so he makes it his duty to brutally kill everyone he comes across.
Dr. Nate Samuels, Martin’s ex-wife, was raised in South Africa, which is “around here,” according to Idris Elba. He introduced the two, and their union resulted in the birth of their eldest daughter, Meredith, and two daughters, Norah (Leah Jeffries) (Iyana Halley). Meredith is a photographer, just like her mother. Tragically, Nate’s ex-girlfriend passed away from cancer soon after their breakup, which caused Meredith to feel distant from the father she believes abandoned the family. In an effort to mend his connection with his children, Dr. Nate is taking them to the former home in the woods where their mother used to hang out. When Norah discovers there is no mobile phone coverage or Wi-Fi in the middle of nowhere, she remarks, “This is so back in the day.”
In the opening sequence of “Beast,” the aforementioned poachers kill a pride of lions, and then Rory launches the first of several assaults. We’ll witness his job in greater brutal detail as the movie goes on, starting with the body of a wounded guy who stops Martin’s Jeep in search of assistance. (He refers to Rory as the Devil.) When Martin visits a neighboring village in search of assistance, he finds the area covered with dismembered corpses. Martin informs Dr. Nate that “lions don’t do this.” One lion, however, does, and to demonstrate his point, Rory captures the Samuels inside their Jeep after forcing them to crash during the attack. This lion has undoubtedly seen “Cujo.”
From this point on, “Beast” is entirely about Dr. Nate using all measures necessary to defend his girls. Given that at times it appeared as though Norah and Meredith were working closely with their predator, the task is a bit more difficult than one might anticipate. People frequently act foolishly in horror films in an effort to elicit viewer response, but this is over the top. They refuse Nate’s orders to stay in the car each time. They leave at the worst possible times, well aware that Rory is waiting outside. The kids start honking the Jeep horn and trying to chat to their dad on the walkie-talkie as he is trying to secretly elude his adversary.