7/9/10

Review: Predators (2010)


Nimród Antal's Predators, a sort of a reboot or one-off in the successful sci-fi series, produced by Robert Rodriguez, is a pretty solid Predator movie, fun and cool. It does suffer from clichés and silliness, but not too badly.

The film opens precipitously, as Royce (Adrien Brody of Splice, stolid) drops in on a jungle he's never seen before. He's some kind of black-ops CIA ghost-type of mercenary, well-armed for anything except what's coming next. It's not too long before Cuchillo (the great Danny Trejo of Desperado, all right), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, joins him on the floor, also weapons-ready and trigger happy.

Not to give away anything you haven't seen in the trailers, Royce and Cuchillo--and later Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov, good), Stans (Walter Goggins, good), a dangerous convict, Isabelle (Alice Braga of City of God and I Am Legend, very credible), Edwin (Topher Grace, "That '70s Show," eh), a doctor, Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien, good, underused), a Yakuza enforcer, and Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, pretty good, also underused), an African soldier--come to discover they've arrived in an alien game preserve, a sort of planetoid satellite with Earth-like qualities used by the Predators of the title as an arena for sport-hunting.

Or is it just sport? One of the mysteries of the Predators throughout the series has been just why they like hunting people (and members of other alien species) so much, just what the point is. The Predators display both callous disregard for life and a certain sense of fairness and honor in combat, though it's not quite like what a human understanding of fairness and honor would be. They are ruthless and cruel, to be sure, but also, at times, playful or even respectful.

Full disclosure: I've seen all of the Predator movies with the exception of the first Alien Vs. Predator crossover. They tend to run on the hokey side, but have great action and effects. I particularly enjoyed Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, the least hokey of the ones I've seen. It's ruthless, spare, elegant and doesn't expect you to care anything about the humans, just to enjoy the Alien-y and Predator-y goodness.

This film is more on the camp and silliness side, though most of the action sequences are pretty credible, and there are some nice serious surprises contained within what could have been more standard and boring set-ups. It does unfold with a real-time urgency which helps cut a lot of potential crap. But if you get a familiar feeling about any of the humans, stereotypes or worn tropes from other action movies, you can rest assured that this is just about exactly how they're going to work out as characters. This is mostly trouble-free, with one exception.

Brody has a lot of fun with his role, and the camp and seriousness he alternately displays go hand-in-hand, as with any good popcorn action movie. Brody has a stone face like Buster Keaton and he has a lot of fun with it, while still managing to maintain his badder-than-everybody attitude when necessary. Alice Braga and Laurence Fishburne act slightly above the level of the rest of the film. Fishburne's character especially seems written to play effectively on his personae from other films, and it works well.

This is attempted with Edwin, too, without success. Without spoiling it, Topher Grace's character is every bit the stereotype one expects from moment one, and there's not really suspense about how this develops, just delay, which is not even close to as interesting as real suspense.

If you're any kind of Predator fan, Predators should hit the spot, despite common action-movie flaws and old saws. The real star, as it should be, is Predator Hunt World and all its associated lore and detail, expanded and expounded nicely here.

Alex
The Magic of the Movies

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