Movie Review: Primal Is All Growl And No Bite (2019)

October 28, 2019

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email:



From director Nick Powell comes Primal starring Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Famke Janssen “How to Get Away with Murder”), and Kevin Durand (“The Strain”).


The film tells the story of an animal trafficker (Cage) who boards a ship that is also carrying an ex-military assassin (Durand) taken into custody, a few soldiers and a doctor (Janssen), along with ship’s crew and the trafficker’s cargo which includes a rare white jaguar. As the journey begins, the assassin breaks free unleashes the Jaguar and begins killing people off one by one.


Everyone knows who Nicolas Cage is and his reputation for his films being hit or miss. In the case of Primal, it’s a big miss. Cage’s dialogue and acting is so forced that it’s almost painful. The only thing worse is the spray-on-beard he’s wearing.  There are zero redeeming qualities about his character Frank Walsh. He’s a dick who traffics animals, but we’re expected to cheer for him or identify with him in some way? No.


Jenssen’s character Dr. Ellen Taylor is just as unlikable as Frank. Jenssen’s performance was stiff and even though she’s surrounded by death and in constant danger she rarely ever shows any form of emotion. I got the impression that Jenssen just didn’t want to be there or something.


As for Kevin Durand’s Richard Loffler, he’s the only cool character in the movie and he’s the bad guy. Durand pulls off a combination of lethal and disturbed quite well. Durand’s performance is the only decent thing about Primal.


Another issue I have is with the special effects. The CGI is dreadful. Yes, I realize that they can’t use a real jaguar, but the cat in the film looks so fake and cheap. Frankly, I found it extremely distracting. If you’re going to make an animal a huge part of a movie at least make it look halfway believable. I think that’s the thing that disappointed me the most.


Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying that the writing by Richard Leder was bad. It was an interesting story with potential, but the execution was left lacking. This is one of the rare movies that I would be interested in seeing if it was remade.


Just a heads up, there’s a lot of violence towards animals in the movie, consider this a warning to any animal lover that decides to watch it.


While there is near-constant action, it doesn’t make up for all the strikes against the movie. I can not bring myself to give Primal a score any higher than 1/5. It just failed in so many ways.


Primal comes to Blu-ray and DVD on November 8, 2019, from Lionsgate.



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