Film Review: Predators

A group of elite mercenaries, a convict, and a doctor walk into a bar awaken in a strange jungle where they find out that they are indeed the “most dangerous game” for an alien breed that is intent on hunting them down at all costs.

Led by tough guy Royce (Adrien Brody) and fiery Latina Isabelle (Alice Braga) they must battle for their lives by relying on their natural “predator” instincts to survive in a deadly game of Predator and mouse on a foreign world – with no means of escape and no time to bleed.

Predator is one of the greatest action films of all time that still holds up in today’s CGI-infested action world. The reason for that is the lush jungle setting of the original. The movie was made in 1987, but because it (wisely) was given a setting that was stripped of all of those annoying 80’s contrivances (the music, the clothes, the everything) it supplanted itself into the action movie canon very high on the list. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it had now-governor Schwarzenegger in the lead. Face it, the dude used to be the epitome of macho, and Predator was his Mona Lisa of Macho, if you ask me.

The original sequel, Predator 2, took a more urban setting for the mayhem and featured Danny Glover as the hero. Now, I haven’t seen the movie, so I cannot fairly comment, but if you read that and thought “huh” just as I did, you can see why maybe it actually was time for a Predator reboot. Enter Predators, produced by macho man Robert Rodriguez and starring macho man Adrien Brody…wait, what? Macho man? That’s right, the former Oscar winner plays the tough lead role here, and you wouldn’t believe it, but it works. He is convincing in the role (ripped, tough, aloof) even if he was probably hoarse after every shoot from doing his best Batman voice. He’s no Arnold, but he’s no Danny Glover, either.

The rest of the cast does fine. Braga fulfills the Michelle Rodriguez role (a tough Latin woman who kicks butt) suitably, and the other mercenaries fill up the screen as cannon fodder well enough. Walton Goggins as the convict Stans provides apt comedic relief, and since I love him in everything he’s in (Justified and The Shield on FX especially), he is a highlight. Topher Grace as the doctor also provides some comedic relief as the wuss, that is, until an inevitable twist that I won’t ruin, but I’m sure you won’t be surprised (or thrilled) when it happens. Laurence Fishburne shows up in a surprise cameo, and while he is quite welcome at first, his scenes drag on for far too long. In fact, the whole middle of the movie drags (i.e. no one dies), but luckily the blood starts flying shortly after.

Speaking of blood, the gore is handled well enough here, but it doesn’t have the same punch as the original did. I think the reason is because when people start dying in Predators, they do it in the dark. Not entirely in the dark, mind you, but it seems like the saturated look of the movie takes away from some of the impact. What was great about Predator was that you had limbs falling off and heads being exploded in the brightness of the day. The bright red blood bounced off the lush green forest and it looked awesome. Here, everything gets washed out, which I’ve come to expect from many modern day horror and action movies (due to low budget, audiences, whatever), but I was still disappointed in the lack of “oomph” from the gore.

Also disappointing were the lack of good lines to quote after the credits rolled. Walton Goggins has a few wisecracks, but Jesse Ventura’s “I ain’t got time to bleed” from the original stands as one of the greatest action quotes of all time. Even Arnold’s “you are one ugly mother f****r” stands out as a great line, when we first see the Predator alien in the original. Sadly, this new one didn’t have any lines that even remotely lived up to those of its predecessor. The other factor that takes away from this new film is the fact that we have seen the Predator alien (masked and unmasked) before. Yes, there is also a new “breed” of Predators in this one that are uglier and have new toys, but seeing the original Predator for the first time was such a thrill, and sadly, that effect cannot be duplicated in this new film.

One small detail that I have to gripe about is the “know-it-all” attitude of the characters. Aside from the fact that they really don’t seem to be all that freaked out about being on a frickin’ alien planet, they also seem to know every move of the Predators, what their strategy is, etc., but only when it is convenient to move the plot forward expositionally. They talk like they know all of the plans of their hunters, then somehow they forget these plans, and people die. Not to mention that if it means a character is saved within inches of his/her life, another character can shoot a moving target with pinpoint accuracy from fifty yards away, but have a pack of wild “dogs” charging towards them and they waste all of their ammo trying to hit the damn things. I mean, these are elite killers, right? They shouldn’t be wasting as much ammo as they do. But, this is typical of the genre, so you accept it, you groan, but you move on.

By the time you reach the end, you sort of know how the whole thing will play out. The only downside is that at the end, there is no “end”. It is like they planned a sequel when they finished the film, so instead of wrapping things up nicely, the film says “well hey, we might continue this story some more, if you like it enough”. The question is, will audiences?

Predators is a decent addition to the Predator canon. You turn your brain off, you watch it, it’s fun, and you go on living. Still, watching it in the theater and writing about it now just makes me want to go back and watch the original all over again. The original will always be a classic, and in my opinion, should stand alone. However, if you have to recommend some more Predator fun to fans of the original, this will aptly provide the necessary entertainment and blood lust they so crave.

Now the real question is, which one of the actors in this film will go on to become Governor? My money’s on Topher Grace, purely based on alliteration potential alone.

Supplemental viewing: Predator, FX Network’s “The Shield” and “Justified”, Battle Royale (the Japanese cult classic), Saw 2