Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review - Predators

In order to sharpen and adapt their hunting skills, an alien race known as Predators have been using a distant planet as a game preserve. One-by-one the Predators drop dangerous life forms from the far reaches of space into their game to hunt. When an elite group of mercenaries, contract killers and psychopaths from Earth come together within the preserve, they pose a whole new lesson for alien race that started the game.

"Predators" is the best Predator movie since the original. It is leaps and bounds more enjoyable than the terrible Alien vs. Predator films and just a smidgen better than the 1990 sequel that starred Danny Glover. The biggest problem is that the scifi sets the table for a rewarding action, but ends up bogging down the ride with dreadful pacing and cringeworthy dialogue, not to mention a few characters that are beyond pointless.

Director Nimród Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez should have sought to tighten up the script penned by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch because it meanders around far too long with only peppered action sequences to keep you from falling asleep. The first two acts spend an insane amount of time setting up what the viewer already knows going into the movie. The people have no memory of how they got there, each of them is skilled in some way and they are all being hunted. Each character is introduced and drawn out so slowly that by the time the group finally comprehends the circumstances, the viewer is really craving some serious action.

Luckily, the action throughout "Predators" is top notch. I thoroughly enjoyed what is delivered. We see the Predators utilize some new tricks and also watch them relish in what they know best. The group of multi-cultural mercenaries or victims (if you will) have some thrilling sequences evading or going head on with the menacing Predators. I especially loved the Yakuza gang member and his showdown with one of the Predators. Lead actor Adrien Brody even does a valid job carrying on the mantra of a would-be hero. There is an intended homage to the original Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger towards the end, and let's just say while Brody in no way outshines the original, he does a polished job of measuring up.

There actually is a good movie inside of "Predators," it is just overloaded with redundant story and character development, mixed with painful dialogue. The cast actually deserves a ton of credit for delivering the ridiculous dialogue with such tenacity. Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Walt Goggins and Louis Ozawa Changchien come across as the most engaging in their performances. Meanwhile Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali aren't given enough screen time for you to care one way or the other. Brody and Braga all but carry the entire movie on their shoulders and both do an exceptional job at doing so. Seriously, Brody has me sold. The guy can play a softy or a badass, what more do you want?

The painful part of the cast comes with both Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace, each however for their own individual reasons. Fishburne's character is a flat out waste of time. His character all but confirms my earlier notion that the film spends way too much time setting up what the viewer already knows. In the end, he presents nothing new to the group being hunted other than more needless grating dialogue. Topher Grace on the other hand, is painful to watch. His character is bland and entirely predictable. He is the one character you'll more than likely find yourself wanting to die.

A few things that felt drastically missing from Nimród Antal's "Predators" is intensity, torment and terror. This new group that is thrown together are being hunted and within the hunt there really should have been some level of fright. Sadly, there is very little hunting and even less fright. In the original film, the team of commandos who inadvertently stumble upon the Predator in South America very much feel as if they are being hunted. There is a tormenting tension that builds and builds from the hunt, but this time around, that tone is all but vacant. Truth be told my 8 year-old could watch this movie and would probably not be affected by nightmares.

Overall, I mainly enjoyed "Predators." The scifi action has plenty enough to enjoy. It feels like a better sequel than anything we've previously seen and most importantly, is highly re-watchable. Was it the best I could've hoped for, not by a long shot, but it got the job done and didn't leave me upset like any of the other sequels in the varied franchise. One thing is for sure, it definitely made me a believer in Adrien Brody, who is a viable action star and someone I want to see taking on more Predators in the near future.