A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
Parents and caregivers: Set limits for violence and more with Plus
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Primal is an action thriller starring Nicolas Cage that's set on a ship overrun by an escaped killer and wild animals. Things get pretty violent: Expect guns and shooting, fighting, stabbing, choking, neck-breaking, knives, tranquilizer darts, and a child in peril. Animals attack humans (eating a human in one scene), and humans shoot at animals. Language is extremely strong/constant and includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "a--hole," and many more. There's social drinking, and the main character gets slurring drunk in one scene. He also smokes cigars.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In PRIMAL, big game hunter Frank Walsh (Nicolas Cage) captures an incredibly rare white jaguar. He boards a ship with his bounty and several other animals, ready to sell to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, as a last-ditch solution, the ship is also being used to transport political assassin Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand) back to the United States for trial. Loffler soon escapes and then frees all the animals, including venomous snakes, dangerous monkeys, and even the jaguar. Now, with the aid of Dr. Ellen Taylor (Famke Janssen), Frank must prowl the ship's labyrinthian corridors, rescue his animals, and catch a killer.
Is it any good?
This thriller has a fun premise, but it feels both too lazy and too serious; rather than really playing with the concept, the film does little more than let loose-cannon Cage carry the load. Primal has all the elements for a cool movie: various exotic animals, a clever killer, a scoundrel-like antihero, and an appealing leading lady, all trapped together in a perfect, enclosed setting. If a filmmaker had approached it with a sly, coy touch or a sharper sense of rhythm, it could have been wildly entertaining. But director Nick Powell -- a former stuntman with one other movie, the atrocious, sluggish Outcast, on his resume -- doesn't do that.
The movie starts with Cage dialed all the way up to 11; he's so amped up that he doesn't even seem to be in the same room with the other actors. His special brand of quirkiness can often save a movie, but it has to be used correctly, and in Primal, it's not. Then, the jittery, twitchy filmmaking manages to deaden any sense of rhythm or suspense. And poor Janssen doesn't have much more to do than get kidnapped and tied up. At least Durand seems to be having fun, sneering and bluffing his way through his villainous role. And there are some wonderful animals to look at. But overall, Primal is a wasted opportunity.
Talk to your kids about ...
What is the movie's attitude toward animals? Are animals respected? Should wild animals be captured for humans' appreciation?
What is an antihero? Does Frank Walsh qualify as one? Is he likable despite his bad behavior?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love action and thrills
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch