09 July 2010


Starring Adrien Brody, Danny Trejo, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Steele
Written by Michael Finch & Alex Litvak
Based on the characters created by Jim & John Thomas
Directed by Nimrod Antal
Release: 09 July 2010
20th Century Fox, 107 mins., Rated R

Plot: A group of not-so-good people are dropped off onto an alien planet to be used as killing sport - unless they find a way to defeat them, which seems rather doubtful, even with all their big machine gun thingies.

As a fan of the franchise, and as a bloke who suffered through two rather horrible ALIEN VS. PREDATOR abominations, I decree that this Robert Rodriguez produced, Nimrod Antal directed production, PREDATORS, kicks ass. It does justice to the first two PREDATOR films, staying true to the tone and atmosphere they established whilst expanding the mythology of the alien beings who mess with lethal humans for sport. Honestly, this movie is just a major load of funness, and as a fan of the Arnold/Danny movies that have come before, I can't help but have enormous respect for what's been accomplished here.

Please take note, this review may seem perhaps far too positive, that I may be giddy out of proportion. Well, that's quite possible. See, I, like many, assumed this would be another vehicle of junkiness, that perhaps ECLIPSE would be a far more intelligent and well crafted movie than this, that Fox would meddle with the franchise even further and frak it all up. Perhaps my low, low, low expectations created my positive attitude towards it, but I firmly believe that this review will be full of accolades because it does so many things right.

First and foremost, what a PREDATOR movie needs to accomplish is atmosphere. Without that - no horror or action movie can survive. Both AVPs sucked majorly because of that [plus atrocious performances, but that's a rant for another day]. The first PREDATOR production was tonally perfect, successfully making every tree and branch a possible life-ending threat. Director Antal amazingly recaptures that amazing, riveting power. We have our core characters, and everything else on the entire planet becomes the antagonist - at any reasonably swell moment, it can turn into a blood bath. Even scenes without a single alien that needs to be destroyed become just as thrilling and edge-of-your seat, thanks to such wonderful directing and crafting of atmosphere.

Secondly, a movie with a set-up like this demands characters that we give a damn for, or at least like. Y'know, that character where you're thinking, 'Awww, didn't know your name, but you were cool; sorry you got with the being dead and all.' Luckily, PREDATORS boasts a pretty cool list of characters, although it's arguably the awesome presence of the cast than the realized characters that leave a impression. Filling in as the leader of the gang and the guy who seems to know what he's doing, Adrien Brody (of all people) is the enigmatic mercenary who kills because he likes it, and will fight anyone and everything to survive. I understand Brody's casting came with some scrutiny - I amongst them - but surprisingly, Brody pulls it off. There's even a scene that mirrors the original PREDATOR finale with him pulling a Arnold, and he carries that sequence with the same pizazz, power, and badassery Arnold conveyed. So, good call casting directors.

The much publicized presence of Laurence Fishburne is sort of a misdirection; Fishburne's character doesn't arrive until the end of the second act, nearly to the point that I entirely forgot the actor was scheduled to be in the flick. His role to the plot is rather necessary, but overall, it was a sadly quick cameo. Topher Grace of THAT 70'S SHOW fame has also 'graced' the screen, this time being promoted to a character to happily swears every other sentence. Grace seems miscast, but taking the evolution of his character into consideration, it was the perfect choice; although, did anyone else notice the slight similarity to his character's monologue during the 'revelation' sequence to that of Eddie Brock in SPIDER-MAN 3 ("I like being bad"/ "I like it here. [We're/They're] animals."). Or could just be me. It's just the firs thing I thought of during the sequence.

Walton Goggins, the actor I have the most respect for in the entire cast, is, as expected, perfectly fantastic in his role as a convict who was scheduled to be executed in three days. Goggins works as a unstable convict, but also has a presence of mind to keep his shit together during intense shoot outs. Danny Trejo (MACHETE) wields to guns and is quite trigger happy. Basically all you need to know about his character. I mean, it's freakin' Danny Trejo! If you don't know what his character is, you obviously need to watch a EL MARIACHI film. The only other recognizable actor in the cast is Alice Braga (I AM LEGEND), who is marvelous as another military folk who has a conscious but won't hesitate to kill. [Ugh, horrible description of here; but whatev, see the film] Braga is most definitely able to convey the 'don't frak with me' look, and is entirely believable as a gal who will blow your happy place into smithereens if necessary.

Great casting aside, the real meat and potatoes of a PREDATOR film is the action, no? Suffice it to say, PREDATORS delivers. Not only does our gang of gun-blazin' happy guys have to defeat three Predators with advanced weaponry, but there's also multiple new creatures on this planet that has never been introduced before in the franchise. There's these freaky dog thingies with horns that can't wait to devour some nice meaty human, and a super fast creature that sort of looks like a silvery liquid skeleton of the Predator design. I didn't expect the presence of any other aliens but the Predators, so they were a welcome surprise. By far the coolest and most interesting thing about PREDATORS is a literal sword fight between a Yakuza member and a Predator. The fight is even choreographed and shot like a sword fight, like something you'd see in KILL BILL, but with a giant hulking 9-foot Predator creature. Explosions, sword fights, a lot of gun fire and running - yep, PREDATORS is filled with awesome action pieces that more than make the price of admission worth it.

As for the Predator designs, something I consider very important to the overall feel of the project, they're quite serviceable and mostly honorable to the originals. Although they look fine - including a red-eyed super pissed off new Predator - for some reason or another, they just don't have the same menace as the first two bulky Predator outfits. Is it just me, or does anyone else sort of get the impression that they're sort of...er, 'wrong'-ish? But still cool, by all means. Just a small bit of inconsistency, really. Like Darth Vader's skinner helmet in EPISODE III to the bigger one in EPISODE IV. The little things, y'know?

Although PREDATORS is for the most part a impressively successful production, there are a few faults present: the revelation of Topher Grace's character, I feel, required at least a tiny hint of foreshadowing. It would make the surprise at least a little bit more believable. Second, Adrien Brody's character, while being given the most emphasis, does feel a bit cartoony dialogue-wise, kind of like a exposition character filled with western/war cliches. Thirdly and finally, although I'm more than gleeful that the original PREDATOR score is blasting in the theater, I do wish there were more original pieces composed. The score largely relies on the themes already established. Oh, and this isn't really major, but towards the final 30, a bit of tighter editing would do good, but overall, it's not detrimentally distracting.

In the wake of a pretty underwhelming summer where the only other really impressive title is another callback to a '80's franchise, PREDATORS is pretty damn good. A great cast, awesome amount of nail-biting tension, freakin' cool new alien creations as well as Predator designs, intense action sequences, and the original Silvestri score in surround sound...yeah, PREDATORS is recommended. Besides, the very notion of human soldiers on a alien planet being hunted - how does that NOT sound like a movie that's at least worth checking out? The movie's good enough that it nearly washes away the embarrassment of both AVP movies, how about that for a good enough reason to see it?

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