By Don Simpson | July 9, 2010
Director: Nimród Antal
Writers: Michael Finch, Alex Litvak, Jim Thomas (characters), John Thomas (characters)
Starring: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov,
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Louis Ozawa Changchien
In 1987, Predator introduced an invisibility-cloaked extra-terrestrial warrior who wreaked havoc in a Central American jungle. Looking to reboot the Predator franchise in 1994, Twentieth Century Fox enlisted Robert Rodriguez (fresh off his directorial debut El Mariachi) to pen a new Predator script. Fifteen years later, Rodriguez received a phone call from Fox saying they just found his script and wanted to make his movie. Predators is that movie (though with a revised script and Rodriguez deferred the directing duties to Nimród Antal).
In the jarring and disorienting opening, we are dropped – quite literally – into the jungle alongside Royce (Adrien Brody), a heavily-armed lone soldier sporting a very large gun. Royce promptly gathers a merry albeit untrustworthy band of outsiders (which, in this context, serves more as a reference to Tarantino than Godard) who have just undergone the same freefall. Comprised of killers of all shapes and sizes (most of whom don weapons at least as large as Royce’s) – a sniper in the Israeli Defense Force (Alice Braga), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo), an African warlord (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a Yakuza killer (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a Russian Special Forces soldier (Oleg Taktarov), a death row sociopath (Walton Goggins), and the token all-American dweeb (Topher Grace) – Royce’s gaggle of anti-heroes has no recollection of how they got to this godforsaken place. Like the castaways in Lost (with Royce as their Jack) the characters assume that they are being punished for the dirty deeds of their past. That’s right boys this is hell…or at least limbo. Or is it? Eventually they put enough puzzle pieces together to surmise that they were dropped onto a game reserve to be hunted for sport by the titular predators (insert Dick Cheney joke here). The hunters of Earth have now become the hunted. Along the way, they stumble upon a highly neurotic scavenger (Laurence Fishburne) – apparently the only other living human on the predators’ planet, having somehow survived multiple hunting “seasons” – who is able to provide some necessary history and context for the story. (In a playful homage to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now – which featured a 15-year old Fishburne – he briefly hums “The Flight of the Valkyries.”)
Directed by Nimród Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy, Armored), Predators is a very worthy sequel to John McTiernan’s 1987 Predator. Antal gets everything perfect from the visuals to the cheesy dialogue to the overall plot– at least as far as Predator standards are concerned. Fan-boys, you can just go right ahead and forget that Stephen Hopkins’ 1990 sequel (Predator 2) was ever made – and hopefully you’ve already erased any memory of the two horrendous Alien mash-ups from 2004 and 2007. I have absolutely no doubt that Predators is the film you’ve all been waiting for since 1987. Shot on location in Hawaii and Texas with very tangible (non-CGI) predators, Predators is quite stunning. I was quite amazed by the way Antal utilizes various parks in and around Austin, Texas to convey the alien world of the predators. Most importantly, some of the fight scenes are straight from the collective wet dreams of fan-boys around the world. (As for the ladies in the audience, Brody sheds his shirt and covers himself in mud just for you.)
The only real difference between Predators and Predator is the significantly higher caliber of the acting talent in Predators – and before you get all up in my grill, I am not saying that Governor Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura did not serve their purpose in Predator…oh did they! But the eight anti-heroes of Predators are much more natural, nuanced and complex (which doesn’t say much and they are still not complex enough for my liking). The fact that Brody possesses a fairly natural body type – well, at least he is not an Austrian bodybuilder – definitely helps keep things somewhat grounded. And Predator surely didn’t offer a character as intriguing as Braga’s. (To quote Godard: “All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun.”) Rodriguez has an uncanny knack for creating strong female characters and Braga is no exception.
I much prefer the Alien franchise over that of Predator, so I’m a bit prejudiced. (If a new Alien film was this faithful to the tone of the original two films, I would give it at least an 8/10 rating). Admittedly, I thought Predators was a lot of fun – as cheesy as the dialogue is, I still laughed a lot. Nonetheless, I can’t say it was a great film. Predators was made extremely quickly – there are holes in the script and it seems somewhat superficial and shallow (though it starts off as a bit of a mind-fuck). Unfortunately we only get to know Brody’s and Braga’s characters, even though some of the others (including Topher Grace) have just as much screen-time. Speaking of Grace (this one’s for you J.P.) – he has some of the best dialogue (he is the comic relief) and possesses one of the more intriguing character arcs but the execution of that arc goes terribly awry.
Check out our World Premiere, red carpet interview with producer Robert Rodriguez HERE.