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Cage Match: Round 1 – Primal

Cage Match is an ongoing look at Nicolas Cage’s output from the last decade or so. I’m watching, reviewing and ranking all those movies that barely played in theatres or went straight to DVD. What are these movies all about? Which one is the best? There can be only one true Cage movie of note. Join me and let’s find out together!

Our first contender in the Cage is Primal, a 1 hr 37 minute 2019 release written by Richard Leder, directed by Nick Powell.

Estimated Budget: $9,000,000 USD (estimated), Gross Worldwide: $228,679

Primal Review

What’s Cage up to this time?

Cage plays Frank Walsh, exotic CGI cat collector who in the opening scene of the movie captures a rare white jaguar, or “jag” as the movie makes clear the cool kids call it. The cargo ship transporting his cat is also transporting an assassin who is being held prisoner. But I’m sure nothing will come of OOOOOO NO THE ASSASSIN IS FREE! AND SHIT SO IS THE CAT! CHAOS!!

Oh also Frank has a bunch of parrots and monkeys and stuff.

Who else is in the cage?

Famke Janssen is along for the ride. I assumed she would be a love interest for Cage but not really? Sort of? They hint at it but nothing really comes of it, which is fine. Nobody is here for that. There’s assassins and jags running around, there’s no time for romance. Janssen doesn’t seem too thrilled to be here by the way. This is definitely a pay check movie for her.

We also have Kevin Durand as the bad guy. He’s very good, but if you’ve seen him in Lost or a number of his other roles, you know he this is a second nature role for him. I do appreciate that the movie doesn’t even pretend like Cage could go toe to toe with this guy. We know Cage would get his ass handed to him in that fight and I’m happy the film agrees.

The director, Nick Powell, has only directed one movie before annnnnnd it’s another Cage movie! The one where he and Hayden Christensen do sword stuff which naturally we will get to eventually.

The writer is Richard Leder who has mostly dabbled in TV movies, including one called “One Thousand Men and a Baby.” They made 998 sequels to those movies?! I’m amazed there was that much story to cover.

Is this movie worthy of Cage?

Not as worthy as the premise promises. Cage running around a ship with an assassin, a jaguar and a bunch of monkeys should be incredible. Imagine if Cage teamed up with the animals? Or rode the Jaguar? Or trained the parrots to pick people up and throw them into the ocean? There was so much room to have fun with this idea, but instead we get a fairly by the numbers action movie where occasionally a jaguar shows up. It feels wasteful to come up with that premise and toss it aside so casually.

It turns out that the underbelly of a ship is not a very visually interesting place for a movie. I hope you’re a fan of non-descript hallways and pipes because you’re going to get a face full of those in every scene. Sometimes you might even see a piece of machinery or an engine or something! It doesn’t help that the whole thing has a very muted and flat look. The entire movie is dreary looking and it is oozing low budget from its cinematic pores. I will say I was expecting video game level CGI on the animals and they weren’t that bad so…there’s a nice back-handed compliment for you movie.

The action is sparse and what you get is fine. You get some fistfights and some animal action but everything feels perfunctory. There’s no standout sequence or moment. I will admit the way the villain is dispatched (spoilers?) is great, as is the ensuing Cage one liner. It captures the tone I wish the rest of the movie had.

How Cage-y is Cage?

This is medium tier Cage. He never goes completely over the top, but he definitely isn’t sleepwalking through the role. He is front and centre for most of it and honestly, if nearly any other actor were in the role it would lose the majority of its already limited appeal. Frank is not the willing hero of the movie. He’s primarily a sarcastic asshole who is only interested in re-capturing his “jag” so he can be rich. He sort of learns some lessons throughout the movie but he doesn’t really have an arc. I was fine with it as it made him a more fun character to watch as he cracks one-liners and talks shit. It’s nice to see that Cage may not be lazy with his acting in these movies, unlike a certain guy whose name rhymes with Moose Smillis.

You bought the blu-ray?! Are there bonus features at least?!

Unlike a surprising amount of these Cage movies, there is not a single bonus feature on the blu-ray. Not even the trailer that originally tricked me into watching this and starting this whole feature. One of the entries for its IMDb trivia simply says “November 8th is the official release date” which is one step away from “This movie exists” so there clearly isn’t a whole to say about this one.

Should you get into this cage?

This feels like the kind of movie you watch on TV with your dad on a Sunday afternoon. You’ll sort of pay attention, you’ll get snacks during the commercials and not worry too much about getting back before they end and when it’s all over, you’ll never think about it again. It doesn’t do anything offensively bad. It’s a very by the numbers action movie that is elevated by Cage, who is not half-assing it here at least. I’m mostly disappointed that such a fun premise is lost on such a bland movie.

Where does it rank?

Considering this is the first movie of this feature it currently reigns supreme. Enjoy your time at the top of a “Best of” list Primal! I’m guessing it won’t last very long! Until next time everyone!

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