A modest adventure thriller in which naive American journalists blunder into a morass of African misery while searching for a legendary maneating crocodile, PRIMEVAL was set up to fail: released in the notorious dumping ground of early January, without critics' screenings and with a brazenly misleading ad campaign that positioned it as a serial killer movie.
Arrogant, Manhattan-based news producer Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell, of TV's Prison Break) is punished for botching a high-profile story with an assignment to accompany clueless on-air twinkie Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton) to war-torn Burundi, where an American was ripped to shreds by a crocodile while investigating war crimes. Though the beast has been blithely laying waste to locals since 1909, acquiring folkloric proportions and the name "Gustave," cynical cameraman Steven Johnson (Orlando Jones) sums up the reason it's suddenly news: Gustave made the O.J. error and butchered a white woman. Joined by mediagenic crocodile hunter Matthew Collins (Gideon Emery) and grizzled guide Jacob Krieg (Jurgen Prochnow), who has his own bone to pick with Gustave, their mission is to document the monster's reign of terror and haul it back to civilization in chains. As often happens when clueless white folks try to throw their greatly diminished post-colonial weight around Africa, things go awry: They ignore local customs, run afoul of a brutal local warlord nicknamed "Little Gustave" (by his crocodile boots and reptile smile ye shall know him) and generally get a bloody lesson in the price of hubris.
Though the film's raison d'etre is the big croc, veteran genre screenwritering team John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris pin some boldly provocative thoughts on motor-mouthed Steven Johnson's sleeve: One minute he's bitterly denouncing American indifference to the suffering of black people, whether around the corner or 6000 miles away in Darfur, and the next he's considering the upside of slavery — at least it got his forebears the hell out of the Africa. Why the reviews achieved near-operatic heights of vitriolic contempt is open to debate, but the confluence of real-life TV "Crodile Hunter" Steve Irwin's freak death in September 2006; the disappointing performance of the high-profile BLOOD DIAMOND (2006), which opened a month earlier and also couched lessons about post-colonial African misery within an action-thriller framework; and the dismal failure of Snakes on a Plane in August 2006, which suggested that moviegoers were less interested than they'd suggested in seeing puny humans terrorized by cold-blooded killers of the reptilian persuasion, surely didn't help. (In English, Swahili and French) — Maitland McDonagh
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: R
- Review: A modest adventure thriller in which naive American journalists blunder into a morass of African misery while searching for a legendary maneating crocodile, PRIMEVAL was set up to fail: released in the notorious dumping ground of early January, without cri… (more)