A film review by Craig J. Koban October 26, 2010
2010, R, 106 mins.
2010, R, 106 mins.
Royce: Adrien Brody / Edwin: Topher Grace / Cuchillo: Danny
Trejo / Isabelle: Alice Braga / Stans: Walton Goggins / Nikolai:
Oleg Taktarov / Noland: Laurence Fishburne
original John McTiernan directed PREDATOR from way, way back in 1987 still
remains one of the most
effective action-thriller pictures of that decade (so slickly made, well oiled, and
enjoyable that Entertainment Weekly Magazine voted it their 22nd
Greatest Action Film of All-Time). The
human trophy hunting “predator” villain of the film was a fiendishly
designed and memorable creation: a 7-foot-plus tall alien creature with
phosphor green blood, infrared vision, cloaking devices, an arsenal of
kick-ass extraterrestrial weaponry, and a mandible adorned mug that only
its own mother could love. This
was a species capable of vast and complicated interstellar space travel,
but, deep down, it just really, really liked to serial hunt and kill prey.
’87 original spawned one inferior sequel in 1990 and two regrettably
awful crossover films where the predators faced off against their cinematic alien
nemesis in 2004's ALIEN VS PREDATOR,
which in turned spawned another instantly forgettable sequel.
I greatly appreciated and enjoyed McTiernan’s efforts with
PREDATOR – he crafted an well executed action picture utilizing old
staple elements of solid location shooting, well realized special effects, and fever
pitched tension and intrigue. It’s a small shame that a film that has become a part of
the sci-fi/action genre milieu of the 80’s spawned such a lamentable turn of
Robert Rodriguez, who wrote an early treatment for a sequel to PREDATOR 2
way back in the early 90’s that was never taken to successful fruition.
15 years passed and 20th Century Fox – who initially
balked at the script based largely on budgetary concerns – gave Rodriguez
and company the greenlight to make a worthy sequel to the first two films
in the series that would all but ignore the last two crossover pictures. The new PREDATORS (pluralized…meaning it’s a sequel and
that – gosh – there’s more than one of the beasties in the film)
shows a fetishistic appreciation for the 1987 original, right
down to the essence of the storyline: human beings trapped in jungle
surroundings that are being hunted and exterminated one-by-one by an
unknown alien entity. To
call PREDATORS "original" inspires incredulous giggles, but it takes the
formula from the first film and delivers a solidly entertaining and well
made sequel that rejuvenates the franchise and easily makes one forget
about the gimmicky crossover pictures that failed to inspire the
series’ rabid, fundamentalist fanboys. PREDATORS is silly and derivative on its
own, but as a worthy and proficiently crafted sequel that delivers on
intended promises, the film is a moderate success.
film begins in sensational fashion, which shows a series of degenerates,
criminals, and mercenaries being parachuted into an unknown jungle
location. One of these
people, a bad-assed, hard-edged, and dexterous killing machine/ex-special op
merc named Royce (Adrien Brody, looking astonishingly and atypically buff
and ripped) awakens from unconsciousness as he is being parachuted down to
an unknown location.
He later meets up with all of the others that hit the ground: they
are an Israeli Special Forces sniper named Isabelle (Alice Braga); a Mexican
drug cartel enforcer named Cuchillo (the great Danny Trejo, looking
awesomely Trejo-esque); a Spetsnaz soldier named Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov);
a Revolutionary United Front Officer named Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali); a
death row inmate named Stans (Walton Goggins), a Yakuza enforcer named Hanzo (Louis
Ozawa Changchien) and…a doctor named Edwin (Topher Grace) that seems
like the odd man out, seeing as he is not a crook, is not packing any
firepower, and is fairly mild-mannered and meek, so you just know
something is up with his character from the get go.
becomes the de facto leader of the group, barking out orders to the others
as they attempt to discover where the hell on earth they are, but in one
of the film’s would-be big reveals, they all discover that they are on
an alien planet, with convenient amounts of breathable atmosphere and
perfect, Earth-like gravity and vegetation. The
“big reveal” that they are not on their home planet is ludicrously handled: when
they manage to get into a clear spot out of the jungle they see several
large moons orbiting the sky, which begs the question as to how any of
them did not notice them when they parachuted down through the atmosphere of
the planet, not to mention that moons the size presented here would have been
noticeable from just about anywhere on the planet with a semi-clear view
of the sky.
course, the party begins to notice that other things are not normal on
this planet, especially the nagging sensation that they are being followed
and perhaps have been placed there for "a reason" (gee, you
This all, of course, sets up the middle act of the film to reveal
the presence of not one, not two, but several predator monsters that wish
to make them all a part of their permanent skull collection. As the attacks escalate, Royce begins to feel that they are
all on a large game preserve suited especially for the aliens’ twisted
need to stalk and murder them, although it seems like going to Earth,
kidnapping humans, and then dragging them to an alien world…just to hunt
them when they could have just done the same on Earth - seems like a
preposterously convoluted plan for the predators themselves.
Much like in the '87 classic, the film essentially becomes a
guessing game as to which party members will be killed first and who will
be left in the end to defend themselves against an insurmountable foe…oops….I
character level, the people that occupy PREDATORS are not fully realized
as much as they are just one-dimensional types that exist to be served up
as bait for the creatures (which, to be fair, echoes the level of
development of the original film’s human roles).
Their dialogue is painfully routine and mechanical, especially
at one point when Isabella recounts a 1987 report of the only human survivor
that fought a predator on earth in Guatemala (a direct reference
to the first film). PREDATORS
has some devilish fun with making us guess which person will be decimated
next - in gruesomely macabre ways - but it certainly does not have nearly as much fun with a
late-breaking plot twist involving one character that made my eyes roll
nearly into the back of my skull.
I did appreciate the willingness to cast this film with actors playing against
type, like Adrien Brody for instance, who does not initially come to mind
when one thinks of rugged action heroes, but the way that the Oscar winning
performer completely and plausibly submerges into the physical guise of a
beefed-out action star and wholeheartedly pulls if off is a revelation.
I also like Alice Braga as the sniper, whose graceful beauty is
nicely contrasted by the toughness and determination her role displays.
Perhaps the largest treat – and biggest in-joke – in the film
is a cameo by a wild-eyed, crazy-as-hell, and demonically anti-social
ex-Soldier, played by Laurence Fishburne, who has been living on the
planet for a long, long time defending himself from the monsters.
The fact that the actor plays an obvious Colonel Kurtz figure is
ironically funny and inspired: he appeared in APOCALYPSE
NOW and, at one time in PREDATORS, even hums the "Ride of the
Valkyries". Either way, Fishburne is an infectious hoot in the film that
gives the story a much-needed jolt.
does a few other things with a real gusto and intuition: the director,
Nimrod Antal (yeah, that’s his real first name...suuuure) exhibits the
patience of the first film by not directly showing the predators until
about 45 minutes in, which is good for helping to bolster the tension and
anticipation of their inevitable reveal.
Kudos also needs to be given to him for utilizing a refreshingly
old school aesthetic style to the action sequences: instead of bombarding
viewers with endless moments of shaky, queasy cam hysterics and
multi-second edits that makes your head ache, Antal creates these scenes
with a controlled and restrained efficiency and – thank 'da Lord –
shows them with a clarity that most young action directors lack.
I was fully expecting PREDATORS to completely hammer viewers
with a modern and manically overdone auditory/visual style, but it emerges
as surprisingly clean and well defined.
It’s really welcoming to be able to watch a contemporary action film
and be able to actually delineate what’s happening within the
frame; other directors need to take note.
are other touches I liked as well, especially with the nice referencing of
Alan Silvestri’s score from the '87 original that is rendered in the
background of PREDATORS by John Debney. The
large scale and final showdown in the film at the climax is rousingly and
viciously satisfying (BTW – how utterly satisfying is it to see a
balls-to-the wall and hard-R rated PREDATORS film in a recent climate where
old action favs – like the recent
DIE HARD film and, yes, ALIEN VS PREDATOR – were neutered to
shameless PG-13 levels of spiteful ridicule?).
there are issues with this new re-launch of the PREDATORS franchise,
but my job is to report what I saw and how well the film is in context (in
its context, how good of a PREDATOR film is it?).
PREDATORS is laughably absurd at times and hardly reinvents the
narrative wheel for this type of hunter vs. prey film, but it does
what it’s supposed to do with a professional polish and aptitude. It
knows precisely what made the '87 film a smash hit and it modestly
recaptures its dark intensity, excitement, and thrills. It’s definitely not the equal of the McTiernan film, but
compared to what followed it, this PREDATORS is in a solid class by itself
for reasonably rejuvenating a series that I thought was on life support.
In the end, the film delivers on its promises and expectations of
making a solid, well paced, and action packed PREDATOR flick.