In Beast, a lion joins the summer’s jaws and claws crowd with a roar that’s worse than its bite. The chomp romp works both sides of the mane for empathy. Yes, lions deserve respect and fear, and no, they mostly don’t act like the computer-generated title beast so don’t run out and shoot them all.
Plus, this lion has an excuse for bad behavior. His pride decimated by poachers, the rogue beast decides to take it out on every human near him, which proves unfortunate for a nice anti-poacher and his friends when they tour a remote section of a game preserve in South Africa. Striking savannah scenery and local animals lend cinematic
allure to any project shooting in the region, and director Baltasar Kormáker demonstrates a good eye for both when it comes to beauty shots. But Beast requires a strong title character for close ups, which tend to look a little off--like they came from computer wizardry.
That gives the lion's share of effectiveness to star Idris Elba as a man out of his element--he plays a New York doctor visiting South Africa with his two daughters. Joining a family friend, their short excursion into the wild becomes an extended nightmare. Put in a hero's role, Elba's screen magnetism serves the project well.
But while Elba's big, powerful frame seems suited to battling monsters, Beast stretches credibility as jaws and claws repeatedly pound and rip into human bodies, gashing and tearing through clothes and skin. Hmmm, when I get a paper cut, I complain for days on end, but this little group heals almost as fast as Marvel's Wolverine. Of course, I want the family to mend and survive, which adds the "romp" rhyme to "chomp" and qualifies as entertainment rather than downer. Beast fits the chomp rom mold, but without the sharpness of Jaws, the real king of the genre.