Predators (From Robert Rodriguez)
I was ready to trash this new incarnation of the PREDATOR series. Expectations had been lowered thanks to the director, one Nimrod Antal, who last directed ARMORED, a ridiculous excuse for a caper movie which took down good actors like Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno and Matt Dillon (after an Oscar nomination). Now here he was with another action movie now with an Oscar winner in Adrien Brody, an up and coming likeable star in Topher Grace, and Laurence Fishburne again (as if he has some vendetta against Mr. Fishburne’s career). The theory of this movie’s suckiness was furthered in simply looking at every PREDATOR related movie after the first one (PREDATOR 2, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, and ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM). But the writer’s and maybe even Mr. Antal himself looked at that trend and did a surprising and seldom seen thing with this latest film: they went back to the basics of the original. I am, of course, not likening Adrien Brody to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but let’s not kid ourselves, Mr. Brody has some game in the acting department, and in this case the director asked him to act like a badass, and he delivered. And in returning to the basics of a team of elite killers against the futuristic, alien, predatory creatures of Arnold’s 1987 original, this movie makes us remember the little nuances we liked about those movies of yesteryear. It’s not about the CGI, it’s not about the green screen…sometimes, it’s just about an all out classic fight between man and beast. PREDATORS taps into that void in the current movie landscape, and delivers an entertaining movie in the vain of the original.
We begin as confused as the main players, with all of our characters being dropped from the sky onto this alien planet. They hesitantly form a group, with Brody working as the de facto leader, though reluctantly. They are a collection of the worst killers from earth chosen as the game on this hunting preserve for the Predators of the title to hunt and prove their mettle. The eclectic collection of killers we have in front of us leads to a variety of cultures and therefore fighting styles and philosophies on war and death. The outlier in this group is the meek Topher Grace, a doctor who finds himself a sheep among wolves…or is he? Brody and the gang find out their role on the planet through clever patterns the Predators follow, typical to hunters, and Brody uses similar tactics in his discovery of their motivations. Alice Braga plays a mercenary with heart, formerly of the Israeli Defense Force, and she provides the foil for the rest of the team of stone-cold killers. The film has its share of individual battles not unlike the original, only in this case, with more Predators, the prey actually get to win every once in a while. There is a scene between a Yakuza gangster in a samurai sword fight which is contrived for its own sake but also well shot and interesting. And the final fight with Adrien Brody is very similar to the original, but with the well cut Brody (maybe 80 pounds more than THE PIANIST, all muscle) using speed and intellect to an audience rousing degree.
Brody does well as the detached killer making the best of his situation. Leading this group without trying or forcing it, but who’s skills are respected as well. Alice Braga plays a stock character, the one in the group that actually cares about people, but we are also surprised by other characters who show this trait at unexpected times. Topher Grace comes onto the scene with his usual winsome schmuckiness, but some of his lines during the flick just seem like they were trying too hard for easy laughs. Other times – thanks to his delivery, not the writing – they were spot on. Laurence Fishburne plays only a minor and mostly unnecessary role, and though he has some fun with it, it could have been left on the cutting room floor; though so could much of the slow times in which the mercenaries try to get to know each other. The big payoof comes with Adrien Brody in his action scenes, which not many people would have thought he could carry out, especially after THE VILLAGE, but I guess that just means he’s a good actor…and what do you know, Nimrod Antal didn’t ruin that for him.