Primeval

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The Wikipedia entry on the African nation of Burundi is far more interesting than “Primeval,” which is a movie set there. As it tries to be two things at once — a gory monster movie and a dramatic social commentary — what it mostly succeeds at is being dull and repetitive.

The ads for this film tried to make us think it’s about a serial killer, but no, it’s not. It’s a crocodile, a big giant one that is the scourge of Burundi, regularly eating people in and near the country’s rivers and lakes. The locals have named him Gustave. (Apparently the crocodile is German.)

Gustave is for real, which is how the film can say it’s “inspired by true events.” In the movie, an American TV-news producer named Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell) is sent to Burundi to do a story about the croc, and to document the animal’s capture by conservationist Mathew Collins (Gideon Emery) — if he can actually capture it, that is, which is doubtful. A fluff-news reporter named Aviva (Brooke Langton) comes along, as does a wise-cracking cameraman, Steven (Orlando Jones), thus providing the comic-relief-black-guy character required in all horror films.

Burundi is in the midst of a civil war when the team arrives, with much of the nation cowering in fear of a warlord nicknamed Little Gustave. “He got his name from the crocodile. It’s hard to say whose blood is colder,” says a local official in one hilariously cheesy bit of dialogue.

Soon the team is on the hunt for Gustave while hoping not to run into Little Gustave’s militias. They find both Gustaves, actually, and find them both to be brutal and murderous. That’s where the film wants to pause and reflect: Who’s the real monster here? See? It’s totally deep.

TV veteran Michael Katleman directs the film with “Jaws” ambitions, but it never even comes close to that level of scariness, a couple of well-done tense moments notwithstanding. The characters are flat, and the dialogue, except for some of Orlando Jones’ quips, is wooden. The warlord subplot was clearly meant to pad out what is otherwise a pretty dry story (croc attacks; repeat), yet Little Gustave winds up being monotonous, too, and even less intriguing. People being eaten by crocodiles gets old after a while, sure, but it’s still more fun to watch than people shooting and stabbing each other.

D+ (1 hr., 34 min.; R, some harsh profanity, fair amount of gore and violence.)

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