Primal Force (1999)

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A rescue team attempts to reach a group of survivors whose plane crashed on a remote Mexican island. Unknown to them, the island is populated by genetically mutated baboons which have a thirst for blood.

 

A low budget TV movie which must have been primarily a vehicle for Ron Perlman to get some work before Hellboy came along, Primal Force does exactly what you’d expect a TV movie to do. It’s got ambitions over and above its limited budget. It thinks it’s on a playing field well above its ability. And it pretends like you’ve never seen this material before in one shape or another. Well we all know better but it can’t be said that Primal Force doesn’t at least try. Much better than the regurgitated dreck that the Sci-Fi Channel puts out nowadays, Primal Force’s trump card is in its main star.

Primal Force may be complete crap but at least there’s a great turn from Ron Perlman as the troubled, sceptical guide, Frank Brodie. He’s the shining light amongst the generally poor cast but doesn’t slum or phone it in. His gun-toting, baboon-blowing bad ass gives you a nice foresight into the qualities he would bring to the role of Hellboy a few years down the line. The character is a little cliché, complete with drinking problems and inner demons, but at least Perlman turns him into something more than a walking caricature. He shows the charm, the charisma and the wit that has turned him into a star so late in his career.

The same can’t be said for the rest of the cast who fulfil the necessary baboon fodder roles with aplomb. There’s the snobby rich girl, the sneaky business man, etc. These are the sort of characters who can be identified either by the clothes they wear or the first few lines of dialogue that they spout. Best not get too acquainted with any of the minor characters once the baboons get to work. However whilst the promise of killer baboons doing some re-organisation work on the faces of these human survivors may sound appealing, the reality is that the violence is almost non-existent and the gore is minimal. You don’t really notice this on first glance however as there is enough going on and the film moves along at a reasonable pace. It seems that the editor at least understood the need to cover over the cracks by keeping the film brisk.

The baboons look like you’d expect TV movie baboons to look and that’s dreadful. They don’t look genetically mutated in any way, just bigger, more aggressive versions of normal baboons. When they attack the survivors, the film chops and cuts so quickly that you don’t see much of them. It’s a good thing in the long run because when they do get more screen time, you’ll think you’re watching National Geographic. The baboons get shafted for a good portion of the film as the group reach an abandoned research lab and there is plenty of talking about how they’re going to get off the island. It all leads to a derivative ending which pretty much sums up the entire experience.

 

Primal Force will just go down as another poor ‘genetically engineered creatures go bad’ flick which have become all the rage since Spielberg unleashed Jurassic Park upon the world. It’s watchable enough and you could certainly do a lot worse – and no doubt I will do many times in future.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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