Sometime soon, “Beast” will hit the great streaming graveyard. Say a prayer and move on. By that point, you will have heard that it’s a dud. And while you may be tempted to watch it anyway — it does star Idris Elba — hoping that it’s tasty enough to fire up a bowl, don’t do it. It has a few scattered laughs, some apparently intentional. But this is thin, unimaginative hack work, and it lacks the deranged seriousness and commitment that distinguishes a pleasurable misfire from bland dreck like this. It is, I am sorry to say, no “Gods of Egypt.”
There’s a story, sure. Elba plays Nate, a doctor who takes his daughters, Norah and Meredith (Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley), on one of those movieland journeys that turns into an extended, predictably dreary family therapy session. His estranged wife has recently died, and he and the girls are in mourning. So, they have flown to Mom’s home country, South Africa, where they stay with an old friend, Martin (Sharlto Copley). They’re there for restorative healing or something, though given all the dumb, dangerous choices Nate makes, it’s hard to think that his kids’ well-being is uppermost in his mind.
The movie is relatively short, as far as contemporary Hollywood action flicks go, and soon Nate and company are driving and then screaming and running through the scenery without cell service, being chased by a very big, very angry lion. The director Baltasar Kormakur keeps the camera moving and circling, but there’s nothing he can do to animate the story (the script is by Ryan Engle), particularly after the characters crash, becoming stranded in Martin’s truck. In between attacks and roars and screams, blood and feelings flow, and water runs low — the usual. Elba looks and sounds exceedingly bored, and you know how he feels.
One of the best things about contemporary digital wizardry is that wild animals no longer need to be subjected to human cruelty and nonsense in the name of cinema. There are real animals throughout “Beast,” but the lion that chases Nate et al. is obviously a computer creation. It has its reasons for attacking people, as our environmental catastrophe makes clear. Yet while the story repeatedly references poaching, it isn’t really interested in animals, and its truer interests are telegraphed by a character’s “Jurassic Park” T-shirt. I mean, it would be nice if animals were taking their revenge — this movie alone should enrage them.
Rated R for gun violence. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.