You know, I can appreciate a movie that doesn’t want to spoil its plot, premise or story with its advertising. What I can’t abide by is when the trailers are blatantly misleading. It’s obvious that the marketing firm looked at the movie, decided that it wouldn’t draw viewers on its own merit and decided to cook up trailers that conjure images of an ancient monster that’s smart enough to hunt people. I guess a movie called Primeval does sound better than Really Big Crocodile.
Gustave is just that: a 25-foot crocodile that enjoys eating the local people in Burundi, Africa. Thankfully, the film fesses up pretty quickly when it introduces the main characters, Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell), his cameraman Steven (Orlando Jones) and Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton). Tim is a television producer who practices bad journalism and is forced to produce Aviva’s story about Gustave as penance. Aviva’s story angle is to capture Gustave with the help of crocodile hunter wannabe Matthew Collins (Gideon Emery).
The story is all well and good and properly sets your expectations for the movie you’re about to see. By that I mean you start guessing who’s going to die a grisly, chewy death by the amount of lines or screen-time they get. But then the film throws you for another loop and saves Gustave for the last third of the film. Instead, the movie takes you through Africa and tries to elevate itself from just being a monster movie and into the lofty heights of geopolitical strife. At one point, in the middle of losing half the cast to several violent deaths, one of the characters actually takes a moment to wax philosophical about how the real monster is man! I imagine the crocodile shedding tears just out of frame as it confesses its hardships to Dr. Phil during that scene. Then it’s back to more carnage!
When the film isn’t busy showing you poor natives being beheaded, it attempts to flesh out the principle characters with unnecessary scenes. The singing of Amazing Grace around the campfire comes to mind as one of the most extraneous scenes. As a writer, I love it when smaller roles are memorable, but these scenes are neither appropriate to the genre, nor do they make us care any more about the characters.
The good news here is that the crocodile is at least scary. It moves like greased lightning. It’s strong. And it’s smart. The CGI work isn’t half bad either. Moreover, the cinematography is premium caliber, utilizing flyovers and static time-lapses to good effect. The cinematography achieves what the writing failed to do, which is make the movie something more than just a horror movie.