Who has not wanted to see Idris Elba punch a lion? Beast is mindless entertainment: not deep, not intelligent, not well-acted, and pretty pointless. Despite that, I did not hate Beast enough to think it a total waste of the viewer's time.
Recently widowed Dr. Nate Samuels (Elba) takes his two daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries) to South Africa, their late mother's homeland. There, Nate reencounters Martin (Sharlto Copley), the South African game warden who introduced Nate and his wife. Meredith or Mer is still bitter about her parent's breakup and Nate's emotional distance. Norah, however, is fonder of her father.
What was meant as a private tour of the preserve by Martin devolves into a fight for survival when a lion starts going on a rampage. Earlier, the lion was the sole survivor of poachers who killed off his pride. Now, he is killing everyone he can lay his claws on. Having already slaughtered a local village, the lion now targets Nate, his daughters and their guide.
In the long night and day that they endure, it becomes a game of lion-and-man, where not everyone comes out alive.
If I could say one thing about Beast, it is that it is not particularly intelligent or original. How can one believe that this random lion would not only survive a hail of bullets in the opening scene but also emerge from a vehicle that literally burst into flames? Not that the whole "Idris Elba punching a lion" bit is any more rational.
However, I think about what Beast is trying to do. It is not trying to be anything but a cliched film, where the familiar beats of "distant father bonds with distant daughters over giant animal attacking them" are hit. As such, I cannot bring myself to dislike Beast.
A plus in my acceptance of Beast is its brief running time: a mere 93 minutes. A lot of Beast is built on the idea that we need to have family drama mixed with murderous jungle cats. As such, I think we do not have to give much thought to something like Beast.
I think Idris Elba does what he can with the material. He certainly aims to make the family drama work, and I give him mad props for the effort. I also think Copley was not bothering to take any of this seriously. When he comes upon the dead villagers, he remarks, "Some of these were my friends" with such a lack of interest, he might as well have said "Some of these were pancakes".
The younger actors, like Elba, I think did their best with these thin characters. They did not leave much of an impression, but like Elba, I give them an A for effort.
Beast is pretty much a waste of time in the same way reading a magazine is. It is something to fill up the time, nothing more or less.