An avenging lion turns into a maneater in “Contraband” director Baltasar Kormákur’s exotic animal opus “Beast” (** OUT OF ****) after African poachers armed with assault rifles slaughter its mate and cubs. Later, the titular lion takes its rage out on an entire village but refuses to dine on the flesh of the dead!

Predictably, the king of the beasts meets its match when it tangles with Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elbe of “The Suicide Squad”) and his two teenage daughters. They have just arrived from Brooklyn, New York, to visit Nate’s longtime friend Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley of “Hardcore Henry”).

Not only did Nate’s deceased wife Amahle (newcomer Naledi Mogadime) grow up in a nearby village, but Martin also had introduced them to each other. Nate’s daughters are captivated by Amahle’s photos of her African homeland.

Recently, she died from cancer, and Nate has been taking flak from his daughters Norah (Leah Jeffries of “PawParazzi”) and Meredith (Iyana Halley of “Licorice Pizza”). Primarily, he chartered their flight to Africa to get back into their good graces.

Neither Nate’s teenage daughters nor he are prepared for the sprawling South African bush. While making amends, they encounter that rogue lion. By this time, the lion has already wiped out an entire village.

We’re told the law of the jungle drove this noble creature to vengeance after its mate and cubs were slain for souvenirs. Mind you, “Beast” cannot compete with “Roar” (1981), probably the most realistic lion movie ever made. Incredibly,

“Roar” shows the jungle cats gnawing on the actors and actresses! Despite its stunning computer-generated lions, “Beast” amounts to cookie cutter pabulum with an obligatory anti-poaching message.

Lament as we must the tragic lion, this half-baked, 93-minute, R-rated thriller degenerates early into a routine, paint-by-numbers, man versus animal potboiler. The saving grace of “Beast” is its spectacular CGI which makes the eponymous predator appear ominous.

After picking up Nate and his daughters at the airport, Martin takes them on an excursion into the wild to show them a pride of lions. The catch is Martin raised the two male lions in the pride from cubs. When he approaches these huge cats, they pounce eagerly upon him to play.

The CGI is so seamless it looks like either Sharlto Copley or his stunt double is cuddling these mammoth creatures with their humongous paws and claws. Later, when the grieving lion tracks down poor Nate, the reason for the lion cuddling scene becomes apparent, since it foreshadows the finale.

Sadly, in their melodramatic efforts to heighten the horror, Baltasar Kormákur and writers Jaime Primak Sullivan of “Breaking In” and Ryan Engle of “Non-Stop” abandon all plausibility and turn the lion into a supernatural entity. The peril that our heroes face is compounded by their shortage of gas and firearms. The best scene occurs when the rogue male lumbers atop their vehicle and smashes a window pane with its paw.

After our heroes find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, they cannot abandon the vehicle. Tromping around atop the truck, the lion’s weight shifts the vehicle, and it topples into a ravine. The fall ruptures the gas tank and swamps the interior with fuel.

As the voracious lion approaches, the survivor trapped inside ignites the gasoline, and a fireball explosion envelopes lion, truck, and individual. Now, the survivors are no longer contending with an ordinary lion but a scorched predator that will stop at nothing to assuage its rage.

By this time, “Beast” has shed any illusion of reality. Happily, the filmmakers let the lion attack the poachers who wiped out its pride. One of the frightened poachers dies when he blunders into one of his own animal traps.

Dangling upside down by his ankle, the last thing this soul catches a glimpse of is the lion’s tonsils just before he dies. Naturally, we never see the lion rip these diabolical poachers to pieces. Instead, we’re treated to some bloodcurdling screams.

Meantime, the filmmakers taunt us with the possibility either Nate or his teen daughters may fall prey to this durable predator. Ironically, this catastrophe in the wild gives Nate and his daughters enough time to bond with greater fidelity.

Idris Elba delivers his usual immaculate performance, while garrulous Sharlto Copley chews the scenery as Nate’s long-winded best friend. As Nate’s daughters, Leah Jeffries and Iyana Halley are vulnerable damsels-in-distress.

Of course, Jeffries and Halley have a few close scrapes. Film editor Jay Rabinowitz does a competent job of generating anxiety, especially when our heroes brace the lions.

Judged on a goosebumps scale from ten-to-one, “Beast” struggles to register a five as a white-knuckled, survival saga with few surprises.

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