Alex Litvak, Michael Finch
Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace,
Walton Goggins, Oleg Takarov, Danny Trejo,
Laurence Fishburne, Mahershala Ali,
Louis Ozawa Changchien
"Fear is Reborn"
I tried to imagine what it would have been like watching this if I didn't know what was going on before popping in the DVD, just trying to appreciate how the story unfolds without any preconceptions. I would likely have had a better time but still ended up disappointed. It opens with Adrien Brody waking up in freefall, his parachute opening just in the nick of time for him to land safely in an unknown jungle. Six more men and one woman have recently been through the same thing. Nobody knows how they got there. The last thing they remember was seeing a bright light before waking up over the jungle. It's quickly established that they are all a rough bunch. Brody's character, Royce, is a mercenary. Isabelle (Alice Braga) is an IDF black ops sniper, Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) a Yakuza enforcer, Stans (Walton Goggins) a death row inmate, Danny Trejo is Danny Trejo and so on. The unlucky bastard whose parachute failed to open will forever remain a mystery. Only Edwin (Topher Grace) seems out of place being a doctor, though the group may soon find they need one. They stumble upon some booby traps and quickly realize that their lives are in danger.
The set up is very much like Cube, but while that film got a lot of mileage out of keeping just what was going on something to be puzzled over throughout the film, Predators is at a disadvantage because anyone going to see it knows who abducted these people and why. A race of Predators have kidnapped and deposited them on an alien game reserve so that they can be hunted and killed. The characters are killers themselves because Predators enjoy a small modicum of challenge. The characters don't know that right away but the script can only keep them in the dark for so long until their ignorance becomes frustrating for an audience three steps ahead of them. So everyone is on the same page very quickly. Had Predator, Predator 2 and the horrible crossover films never been made this could have been interesting based on the premise alone. As it stands, Predators needed a few tricks up its sleeve to make it work.
It doesn't have any. It would have been nice, and not at all difficult, to have had a more charismatic lead than Adrien Brody. The characters are dull. They are a mostly unpleasant group with maybe a sliver of humanity, not written well enough to be taken seriously or broadly enough to be entertaining. The lone female character is, unimaginatively, the most compassionate of the group and therefore the most sympathetic. This movie would have been vastly improved with a more colourful cast of characters. It seems like this was the direction that the writers were trying to go in but the acting and dialog were reigned in too tightly, likely in a misguided attempt to strive for more natural performances. The script displays a strange disinterest in group dynamics. Any one character could be replaced with somebody else and not effect the story. The alien planet setting is wasted. Where is the interesting alien vegetation and terrain? The film is primarily Adrien Brody sullenly marching on as the other characters are picked off around him and we wait for his showdown with a predator. The journey isn't engaging and I never cared if he reached his goal. Laurence Fishburne makes an appearance and briefly livens things up but not enough to make a real difference.
|"Follow me! Or don't. It's not like I care."|
The fights are unremarkable and the movie isn't gory enough. I do think it's possible to salvage an entertaining film from a thin story and underwritten characters. A movie like Predators could get away with that. If it would just admit what it is and deliver the goods. Unfortunately, it feels like the whole film just absorbed Adrian Brody's sullen attitude. It just sits there with its arms crossed and a pissy look on its face, daring you to watch it until the end but not really giving a shit whether you do or not.
|"Go on, shoot me! Or don't. It's not like I care."|
Predators tries to up the ante by not only, as the title suggests, increasing the number of monsters to three but also by establishing that they are super-predators. This is to say, exactly like ordinary predators only bigger. Remember how much trouble Arnold Schwarzenegger had with just one regular size predator in the original? Well just imagine how much tougher fighting three super-predators will be. Not much as it turns out as the Yakuza enforcer is able to go toe to toe with one while wielding a katana and the serial rapist takes one on with nothing but a shiv. This is why the mechanics of the fight sequences are crucial. I'd love to see these guys take on impossible odds and triumph either through excellent strategy or luck or sheer viciousness. I do need to see it though. The fight scenes really need some creative choreography to be convincing. Otherwise they have all the dramatic tension of a slappy fight. This guy defeats the other guy just because the script says so. The action sequences are lazy and dull.
The surprise twist at the end really illustrates just how desperate the film makers were to have something, anything to serve as a climax. After Adrien Brody coldly leaves Alice Braga's character behind in an ill advised attempt to cut a deal with the normal predator that the super-predators are holding captive, Topher Grace suddenly attacks her for no real reason. It turns out that he is a serial killer and has chosen that very moment to turn on her. Damn, and the only reason she stayed with him and not gone with Adrian Brody is because of her female compassion. Look what compassion gets you. I can buy Topher grace as a serial killer but I cannot buy his rational. It turns out that he kind of likes the place. Why? Yes he's a monster and a predator like his captors but I am pretty certain that he would have no desire to be prey. That would be his status on the alien planet. Anyway...surprise. Of course Adrien Brody has a change of heart and comes back to rescue the girl. It's a good thing too because his getaway spaceship explodes. It seems that compassion can sometimes save your life. Makes you think, doesn't it?
|"Ah, I see that you have mastered the science of sharp, pointy metal.|
Well played, Earth Man. Well played."
Predators was unlikely to be a success as an engaging science fiction film of ideas or a deep, or even shallow, examination of the darker elements of humanity. Maybe such a film could be made but Predators doesn't come close. Worse, the film makers don't recognize this and then fail to make the exhilarating, violent action film that anyone sold on the title was no doubt hoping to see.