Hollywood Pictures // 2007 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 12th, 2007
Inspired by the true story of the most prolific serial killer in history.
Um, yeah, it's a big-ass lizard.
A crack TV news team is dispatched to the heart of Africa to research a story on a 25-foot crocodile named Gustave that's been feasting on hapless villagers. Leading the team is Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell, Prison Break) a seasoned pro who's not thrilled about the trip. With him is wide-eyed rookie Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton) and wisecracking cameraman Steven Johnson (Orlando Jones).
The trio soon finds out that the most dangerous foe may not necessarily be the crocodile and not because it's made of CGI. In war-torn Burundi, a warlord named little Gustave and his band of rebel scum roam the countryside wreaking havoc. Eventually, the malicious forces of nature and man will collide and the only ones that will be left standing are the characters you knew would survive from the opening reel. (Hint: the nice African village boy with dreams of going to America probably won't be devoured.)
So I guess there really is a gigantic killer crocodile named Gustave that's killed something like a 125 people in Africa. You know, that's pretty cool. And I can say this much about Primeval: it made me want to check out Wikipedia for more information about Gustave. Unfortunately, that's about the best thing I can say about it.
The TV ad campaigns hid the identity of this "prolific serial killer," and probably for good reason: the revelation that this is in fact a killer crocodile movie would have hurt the film's desire to be more than a B-movie, which it really, really, really wants to be. If you're signing on simply to watch a CGI reptile bite a bunch of victims in half, prepare to learn a little about African social injustice. Now, I'm not saying that the plight and suffering of Africans is not worth your time, but the proselytizing feels out of place here, especially at the end of the film where Manfrey receives an epiphany of why Gustave kills and if it's not in the running for Most Hamfisted Moral in a Movie Where a Crocodile Bites a Dude's Head Off, I'm going to file an angry petition to someone. Woven with the croc attacks is the Little Gustave story, where director Michael Katleman does his best to lend some human gravity to the film. In the end, though, this plotline yields only more victims for Gustave, guys who talk too much pride in delivering monologues when they should be watching their moist, chewy backs.
Let's talk about the croc-on-man violence, which, I would think, is the main attraction to a genre audience. Gustave is obviously computer-generated, a fact that is easy to distinguish. Though Katleman and crew are wise to cloak most of the Gustave scenes in the cover of darkness, the mediocre quality of the animation is still evident. In fact, of all the Gustave scenes, the only one that takes place in the full daylight looks the best. It's still not wholly convincing, but the creature effects are better when the environment is well-lit. As is the norm for these movies, the monster is rolled out sporadically, until the big showdown where we get full views and more than a few intimate encounters with the protagonists. There are three notable action sequences featuring Gustave, and though none of them blew me away, they weren't dull. The finest is the finale, where the croc goes to work on the aforementioned guy's head, and then attacks our survivors in a Range Rover. It's a good scene, punctuated by an aggressive score. Too bad there's no investment in the characters in peril, severely sapping the gravity. Heck, I wouldn't mind if Gustave turned everyone into a buffet.
That's probably my biggest problem with the film: the monster looked fake, but even a series of ones and zeroes squashed together to look like a crocodile has more charisma than this parade of human stiffs. Purcell transplants his Prison Break character, loose-fitting, button-down shirt and all, to the African bush and leaves all emotion with customs. Jones does a tired wisecrack shtick and Langton gives it her all as the idealistic young reporter. These characters were so one-dimensional I have no idea why Gustave would even bother preying on them; it'd be like eating Flan.
The film looks good in its 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, so good in fact, it adds to the listlessness of the visual effects. The 5.1 mix gets a workout and will put your system through its paces. Bonus features: audio commentary with Katleman and his visual effects supervisor, Paul Linden, a making-of feature titled -- are you ready? -- "Croc-umentary," and a few uninteresting deleted scenes.
I'm as big a fan as anyone of man-eating crocodiles, but transparent special effects combined with characters/food that no one cares about damns Primeval to the creature feature dustbin.
The accused is turned into boots.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* "Croc-umentary: Bringing Gustave to Life"
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site