Details: (MA15+), 107 mins, In Cinemas 8 July 2010, United States, English
Synopsis: A mercenary (Adrien Brody) reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors who come to realise they've been brought together on an alien planet... as prey. With the notable exception of a disgraced physician, they are all cold-blooded killers – mercenaries, Yakuza, convicts, death squad members – human "predators" that are now being systematically hunted and eliminated by a new breed of alien Predators.
Remake misses hard-boiled elegance of original.
Predators, a sequel to 1987’s Predator, directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard), is a tangled mesh of genre movie action riffs, in-jokes, big set-pieces and small ideas.
The director is Hungarian born Nimród Antal who’s made a couple of high energy studio action pics in the US, Vacancy and Armoured; his hard frantic style is very much the action-movie style of the moment, where sensation and speed seem to obliterate the need to make any sense of whatever it is that is supposed to be going on.
Before you can draw a breath, the action here is flat to the floor; or rather it’s air-borne and in free-fall!
The movie opens in mid-scene with no preamble or introduction, with Royce (Adrien Brody) struggling to open a parachute. He manages this, just in time, but only after Antal choreographs this life and death struggle in an elaborate dance of fast-cuts, thunderous sound cues, and a dizzying array of angles.
Once Royce hits the ground, the jeopardy quickly escalates. For starters, Royce can’t remember how he got to where he is; he’s in a jungle; he’s on an alien planet and there are very large monsters out to kill him. Being a mercenary, he’s equipped with some heavy ordnance and a talent for mayhem. For company, Royce is surrounded by a cast of ethnically diverse professional ‘bad-asses’, who’s skill-set provides screenwriters Alex Litvak and Michael Finch (working from producer Robert Rodriguez’s original 1995 script) an excuse to play out combat clichés and character archetypes. Like Royce, they’ve been plucked from their natural habitat and plonked down on the planet; disoriented and confused they resist Royce’s leadership, but eventually give in. (Why wouldn’t they? He gets most of the good lines and is the only character that seems to be both super-confident and unusually intelligent.)
Amongst Royce’s new ‘pals’ are the hulking Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), a Russian commando; Danny Trejo as a Mexican drug cartel baddie who’s quick on the draw; a RUF death squad officer called Mombassa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) from Sierra Leone; and a white-bread doctor called Edwin (Topher Grace) who carefully hides his homicidal tendencies behind a nerdy persona.
The one female in the group is Alice Braga’s Isabelle, a Brazilian black ops sniper who provides a bit of sexual tension for the very business-like Royce, but more importantly she fills in the back-story (which is a re-statement of the original Predator plot which had Arnold Schwarzenegger as a CIA commando in a South American jungle doing battle with an alien predator who picks his team off one by one).
After what is a long, mysterious and rather good set-up, Predators slips into a traditional action-suspense groove: Who’s going to get in the neck, how and in what order? Since everyone here is a ‘predator’ of sorts the competition with the aliens seems more sporting; but Antal and co. use the combat plot gimmick to pay homage to action genres. For instance, amongst Royce’s motley crew is a Yakuza, Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), who faces-off with an alien with a samurai sword.
The original Predator had a hard-boiled elegance that was unpretentious and thrilling. It was simple and involving and its action was rendered with tremendous skill that emphasised suspense; it wasn’t just spectacular, it defined character. But Predators falls over itself with skewiff logic and a plot that’s part Jurassic Park – ‘monster theme park’ – and an imitation of The Most Dangerous Game, where human beings are the prey. Some characters here, like Laurence Fishburne’s Noland, a Navy Seal Royce’s group stumble upon, seem to exist just to help the awkward narrative along.
In the end, Predators devolves into a succession of warrior-to-warrior battles. This stuff is fun but not terribly exciting. In Predator, the winning combatant had to use wit and ingenuity. But here it’s all about brute force. As to the story, as in who was behind the plot to bring the humans to the planet and how they plan to get back home? Well, compared to making this stuff look ‘cool’, that seems a low priority.
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