JUNE 1, 2010
“Gary Busey vs. a Bengal tiger”. Those six words should provide even the least imaginative mind with amazing/awesome visuals that couldn’t possibly be contained in a 90 minute film. Then why the hell is Maneater so goddamn boring? How the Christ can even the Sci-Fi Channel manage to fuck up something as simple as a killer tiger movie with Gary friggin Busey, the only actor who can make Christopher Walken look normal in comparison?
Well, ironically enough, it’s because (for once) they didn’t go to the CGI well, opting to use an actual tiger in every shot (as far as I can tell). Since trained movie tigers won’t actually kill or even wound generic Canadian actors, this means that the film has next to zero on screen action. On very rare occasions we see the tiger running toward the camera or something, but never any actual kill scenes. It’s not until the film’s final 8 minutes that we finally see the damn thing doing something, as it “attacks” (read: interacts with a stunt person for a bit and the editor cuts in shots of the “victim” crying and bleeding) a woman whose son is apparently at one with the tiger, possibly the weirdest subplot I’ve ever seen in one of these things.
Not only does it make the film boring, it also makes it quite ludicrous. I’m sure tigers can attack swiftly and silently, but how is it that it manages to kill a guy sitting like 50 feet above the ground in a hunter’s perch without him OR the tiger making any sound whatsoever? The hunter’s buddy is right at the bottom and never hears a thing, even though the guy is torn to pieces. And that’s how pretty much every kill in the movie occurs - someone stumbles across a body of a freshly killed victim (often when they were only a few yards away), which I guess is supposed to surprise us, but all it succeeded at was making me constantly say “you didn’t HEAR that?” Plus, the one time we DO see the tiger attacking someone, it’s being pretty loud, growling and knocking shit around.
And Busey must have been just as bored, because this is one of his least colorful performances ever. I kept hoping he’d don some war paint and wrestle the tiger (or tame it and make it his partner - he’s the chief of police), but no. Instead he dons an ill-fitting suit and never once really comes in contact with it, opting to blow it up by shooting a nearby gas tank.
Oh, speaking of which - can you think of any other predator type movies where the Chief of police blows the thing up by shooting a tank? How about one where a reward is offered to catch it, against the chief’s wishes? Or where the mayor is concerned about causing a panic to the locals during a crucial income-generating celebration? How about a scenery-chewing hunter that offers to use his considerable skill to take it down? Or when a guy who just wants to study it locks himself in a “safe” cage and draws it toward him? I mean, come ON people! All of these things owe some debt to Jaws, but this one is the most shameful I’ve seen post-the 1970s wave that followed its original release (Orca and such). They even try for some of the “colorful local” humor, with warring quilt sales and such. And Busey’s name is Grady, because I guess Brady would be too obvious.
They don’t have the balls to kill the kid though (RIP Alex Kintner). Instead, they just continually remind us that Busey and his wife never had children, and paint the kid’s mom as a religious weirdo, so you can pretty much guess how the movie’s going to end up. I guess this is supposed to be a happy ending, but I mean, the kid watched his mom get mauled by a tiger, and now he has to live with Gary Busey, who will probably force him to wear ill-fitting clothes as well. Not really a tradeup. Plus, they look old enough to be the kid’s grandparents, so I can’t help but wonder if the role was written for someone a bit younger and then one of the more astute producers realized that they needed a legendary scene-chewer to draw people in and hopefully keep their minds off the fact that nothing is happening in their killer tiger movie. Joke's on them though! Busey apparently didn't want to play along!
And yet, this is the one that the Maneater brand is named after, presumably because naming a company Blood Monkey wasn’t all-encompassing enough. But as bad as Blood Monkey was, at least it had SOME action (and Busey's Surviving the Game buddy F. Murray Abraham was having fun) - this is hardly the example you want to be setting with your brand name. It would be like Crystal Pepsi was THE Pepsi, and then regular Pepsi was called “Color Pepsi”. Or something. Whatever. The point is, they should have just gotten the usual bad CGI and made the movie more fun. I appreciate the fact that they wanted to only use a real tiger, but come on - even Spielberg didn’t use a real shark for his movie, which I believe they have seen.
What say you?