he days of Africa-set films featuring white protagonists using glowing savannas as set dressing for first-world problems seemed to be numbered, but hold on: here is a fist-bitingly self-regarding family drama with Philip Winchester and X-Men’s Rebecca Romijn as Jack and Lauren Halsey, a seemingly dream couple off on a dream safari with son Noah and daughter Zoe, and her pothead boyfriend Billy. “Penny for them,” Lauren actually says to Jack, as they are Cessna-ing in. What is on this buff oilman’s mind, though, is that he has just been put on extended leave following an industrial accident.
His secret soon spills too, and Jack is so desperate to please his wife that he ignores safari-park protocol and lets them get too close to the fauna: a female rhinoceros and calf. “Wait, we shouldn’t be getting between them, right?” says Billy, a brief lapse into sensible ideas. One upended van later, with Jack’s leg gored, no mobile phone reception or water, and diabetic Lauren’s insulin levels running on empty, the Halseys find themselves in a world of hurt.
If you can accept the western-centric point of view, all the ingredients are here for a dusty, merciless thriller tussling with nature in tooth and claw. But despite the horrific circumstances, Endangered Species remains inexplicably stuck in the perky comic register of a US sitcom. When it’s not attending to their trite family issues – Jack’s unease with his son’s homosexuality, plus Jack’s uptight control freakery in general – there is the Miss World-level lip service to Global Problems.
“We did a project about cobalt mining in the Congo for cellphone batteries. Do you know how much violence there is, corruption, child labour?” says Noah to Billy, his musings floating out over the splendour of the veldt. A murderous CGI leopard, speaking for all of us, thankfully interrupts this conversation.