Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Primeval

Illustration for article titled Primeval
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The Jaws sequels were increasingly shameful, but the original movie inspired a handful of good B-movie knockoffs such as Alligator and Piranha, which modestly embraced their schlocky nature and treated viewers to silly, occasionally subversive horror-comedy. Even the poor facsimile Anaconda had a crazed Jon Voight, sporting a mile-long scar across his face, doing a memorable cartoon variation on Jaws' battle-tested Robert Shaw character. Set in war-ravaged Burundi, the world's poorest country, the sub-sub-Anaconda bottom-feeder Primeval makes the mistake of taking itself far too seriously; with its exploitative images of civil war and genocide, it's the Blood Diamond of 25-foot-killer-crocodile movies. If there were a shred of sincerity to its straight-faced exposé of African strife, the film would be easier to forgive, but since it's really just a cheap horror-thriller about an ancient predator, the austere tone does it no favors.

On leave from TV's Prison Break, the stone-faced Dominic Purcell stars as a broadcast journalist whose cable outlet, looking for a big score during sweeps week, sends him to Burundi to do a story on a legendary croc responsible for more than 300 deaths. Accompanied by cameraman Orlando Jones and plucky fellow journalist Brooke Langton, Purcell treats the project with skepticism, though he's intrigued by the prospect of covering the country's civil war while he's at it. A Steve Irwin-like croc enthusiast (Gideon Emery) joins them with the intention of capturing the beast in a giant steel trap, but their hard-bitten guide (an amusingly hammy Jürgen Prochnow) knows better. As they continue to find reasons to wade in swampy waterways, the group also pokes into the equally perilous terrain of local politics.

It's been several years since Jones' brief, ignominious stint in the national spotlight, but he picks up the riffing where he left off in those 7-Up commercials and stinkers like Evolution and The Time Machine. To his credit, he seems to be the only person willing to treat Primeval as an entertainment; if the year produces a funnier sight than Jones fleeing the waddling giant across an African savannah, it'll be a good one. Sadly, the film's compulsion to uncover a vicious warlord and his ethnic cleansing campaign proves a permanent distraction, a silly mix of recent history and straight-to-video plotting. There's a place for earnest political soapboxing, but not in a goofy movie about a scaly, snap-jawed killing machine.