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BEAST: 3 STARS. “subtitle could have been ‘Maul’s Well that Ends Well.’”

“Beast,” a new nature-gone-wild flick starring Idris Elba and a big, angry CGI lion, and now playing in theatres, is a throwback to man vs. beast movies like “Jaws” and “Anaconda.” “I’ve never seen anything like this,” says wildlife biologist Martin Battles (Sharlto Copely). “Multiple attacks, without eating its prey. Lions don’t do that. At least no lion I’ve ever seen.”

Elba is Dr. Nate Samuels, a recently widowed father of two teenage daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries). In an attempt to reconnect with his kids, he arranges a holiday to a South African wildlife reserve, run by Battles, a childhood friend of his late wife.

Daniels met his wife in South Africa, and, although he was separated from her when she passed, he wants his daughters to connect to their mother’s homeland.

The trip is idyllic until they arrive at a village that has been devastated by a gruesome lion attack. Soon, they meet the culprit, a wrathful male lion who regards all humans as enemies after his pride was wiped out by poachers. The lion is now fighting back.

“It’s the law of the jungle,” says Battles. “It’s the only law that matters.”

Elba hasn’t had great luck with felines on screen (see “Cats”), and faster than you can say, “Old Deuteronomy,” Samuels and family are engaged in a horrifying fight for their lives.

“It’s you against him,” says Battles, “and that is not a fight you are designed to win.”

As a thriller “Beast” is so predictable the subtitle could have been “Maul’s Well that Ends Well.” Nonetheless, Icelandic director Kormákur does stage a few straightforward action scenes in long takes that will make your blood pressure rise. The fight sequences in and around the jeep the main cast spends most of the film in, are claustrophobic and primal, with a real sense of danger.

Screenwriter Ryan Engle attempts to weave some father-daughter dynamics into the story, but we’re not here for the dysfunctional family stuff. We’re paying top dollar to see Idris Elba punch a lion in the face (before you @ me, these are CGI creations, no animal’s pride was harmed in the making of this movie) and so he does in fine b-movie style.

“The Ghost and the Darkness” this ain’t.

Between lion attacks, the silence is filled with a variety of dialogue that ranges from, “You stay right here,” to “We’ve gotta get out of here.” Elba does bring some emotive qualities to this action character, while Copely lends the story some grit. As the sisters, Halley and Jeffries bring a mix of steeliness and empathy. There is more to them than being scream queens on the Savannah.

“Beast” is not an ambitious film. It doesn’t have to be. It has Elba and enough angry animal action to make its 90 minutes fly by in the swipe of a lion’s paw.

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