The Beast

The Beast (La Belva)

Dept. of Particular Skillsets


You’ve seen this movie before. In fact, you’ve seen it at least three times already. A retired military man, with a particular set of skills, runs riot through a European city while hunting down the bad guys who have kidnapped his daughter. The Beast, or “Italian Taken,” does just about enough to avoid a lawsuit. The premise here might be identical to what happens in that Liam Neeson actioner, but the characters are drawn a little sharper, and the story beats feel a little weightier.

But only by a little. This is as generic an action movie as they come. Car chases. Fist fights. Shootouts. And even some torture porn. It is, however, gripping. And credit to that goes to lead actor Fabrizio Gifuni.

The Beast

Gifuni, who plays the ageing, PTSD-stricken Leonida Riva, manages to add layers to an otherwise clichéd part. He is estranged from his family. He is haunted by his past. He is a man whose psyche is so shaped by war that he is unable to find a way to live an everyday life. When his daughter is kidnapped, it gives Riva the excuse he needs to go back into battle. It gives his life purpose.

This movie doesn’t have a franchise spurring speech (at no point does Riva go on about having “un particolare insieme di abilità”), or any quippy one-liners for that matter. Gifuni plays it straight. Silent and stoic. He is a bulldozer. Stopping for nothing and listening to no one. He is relentless in his mission to save his daughter and God help you if you get in his way.

Gifuni also brings with him an imposing physicality to the part. His bedraggled features and unkempt beard make him look unhinged. He is a terrifying on screen presence and entirely believable as an unapologetic killer.

The Beast

Much like Taken, The Beast also suffers from not having an ever present villain. We meet the big bad, Mozart (Andrea Pennacchi), so late in the proceedings that we aren’t given nearly enough time to hate him. Having Riva fight off a variety of goons and henchmen is all well and good, but the narrative would have been stronger by having a clear antagonist throughout.

Unlike Taken, however, The Beast isn’t vying for PG-13 rating. The fights here are savage. The action is brutal. Director Ludovico Di Martino doesn’t use fast cuts or a shaky cam to create momentum. Instead, he keeps you invested through all of the violence that Riva has to endure in these 97 minutes.

I should also note that Leonida Riva isn’t a superhero. At no point in Taken were you ever afraid for either Bryan or Kim. He was such an invincible force that you know everything was going to work out in the end. The Beast feels like it has stakes because Riva bleeds. A lot. He isn’t an immovable object like Captain America. He is human. He breaks. And he makes for a far more compelling father.

None of that makes The Beast a good movie. It is the very definition of derivative and feels far too drawn out at times. There is some history to our hero and the whiff of a bigger conversation about the military industrial complex and the impact of war. But it isn’t built on and its implications are all but ignored.

That said, it is a fine enough way to wile away an hour and a half.

The Beast (La Belva)
97 minutes
Director: Ludovico Di Martino
Writers: Claudia De Angelis, Ludovico Di Martino, and Nicola Ravera
Cast: Fabrizio Gifuni, Lino Musella, Monica Piseddu, Andrea Pennacchi, Emanuele Linfatti and Giada Gagliardi

The Beast (La Belva) is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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