Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

With ‘Animal 2’ we have a Direct to Video sequel of a Direct to Video movie, which is something we don’t see to often. The first ‘Animal’ starring Ving Rhames , Terence Howard and Chaz Palminteri probably didn’t intend to go Direct to Video with that kind of talent in front of the camera but director David J. Burke who managed to briefly sidetrack the careers of legends and Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman AND Kevin Spacey with the awful ‘Edison Force didn’t do the cast of ‘Animal’ any great favors either, though ‘Animal’ was better than ‘Edison Force’. In this sequel not only has the director been replaced by ‘Straight outta Compton’s’ Ryan combs, Terence Howard’s character of Darius as been supplanted by actor Vicellous Reon Shannon and Palminteri’s Kasada has been replaced by actor Conrad Dunn. Do all of these changes make this film better than the mediocre first episode?

When we last left Animal (Rhames) he was a changed man from his brutal street ways and had just taken the rap for his son Darius (Howard) to keep him from wasting away in jail, giving him his third strike. Fifteen years later Darius has magically gotten way younger and is taking care of his high school aged half brother James Jr. (K.C. Collins), who was just a baby when we saw him in the last flick. James is a good boy who makes good grades on all, but does like to toke that wacky tobaccy with his always up to no good best friend Tommy (Kevin Duhaney).

Back in the joint though things aren’t going so well for Animal as a riot has broken out in his prison and he has gotten the blame. So Animal gets shipped back to his old prison haunts where he sees his old friend Kasada (Dunn) who is working a street fighting ring in the block and needs the damn near invincible Animal to take part. Animal tells Kasada where to go but being the criminal that he is, there is a plan B.

Now plan B is where the movie runs off the freeway a little bit since it involves the assistant district attorney, his lawyer fiancée, the warden, a street level drug dealer which leads to a murder frame up of James Jr., all orchestrated by Kasada behind prison walls and all to get The Animal to do some cage fighting. Considering what Kasada is able to pull of behind the walls of this prison, I believe the conspiracy into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has now been solved. So our story is ultimately about trying to get James Jr. off on this bogus murder rap and hoping The Animal can stop killing inmates in cage fighting and get back to the business of reading his Bible.

In the first film, Terence Howard, who is great actor, was grossly miscast since at 35 he was a bit too old to playing the wayward young thug punk child of James ‘Animal’ Allen, especially since the two looked to be close to the same age. Shannon is certainly a better choice to play the role though I look more like Terence Howard than he does. Hell, Ving Rhames looks more Terence Howard than Vicellous Shannon does. The star of ‘Animal 2’ is also the main reason to watch ‘Animal 2’ as Rhames brings his usual unwavering intensity to the role of James Allen, and has possibly created the toughest movie badass this side of Mecha Gozilla. I think I can kick the ass of most movie actors, no matter how tough a role they may play but there’s no way on God’s green earth that I’m messing with Ving Rhames.

A couple of the plot lines in ‘Animal 2’ were pretty stupid though, primarily the hoops that they had jump through to frame James Jr. for murder. There was a scene where a pissed off James Jr. went to see evil drug dealer Silk and was waving a gun at him. After he left, one his crew asked if they should go after him but Silk said ‘no’ because the Animal looked out for him when he was just a little G. But yet he didn’t cherish the Animal enough NOT to frame his son for capital murder. Some parts were so stupid even the characters thought it was stupid. The assistant D.A., who is being blackmailed by Kasada, arranges it so his public defender fiancée will be James Jr.’s Defense attorney because he thinks he can ‘control’ her. Well he can’t control her leading Kasada to order the D.A. to kill his fiancée and chastising him for being so stupid to involve her anyway. He took the words right out of my mouth.

Director Combs keeps the film moving along and I’m fairly certain he had way less to work with in this sequel than the original director squandered in the first film, but it did show us as ‘Animal 2’ was definitely serviceable entertainment.

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