Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #223
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Release Date: July 9, 2010 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $127,234,389
Running Time: 107 minutes
Director: Nimród Antal
Producers: Robert Rodriguez, John Davis, Elizabeth Avellan
Screenplay: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch
Special Effects: Greg Nicotero, Dick Wood
Visual Effects: Rodney Brunet, Thierry Delattre, Sebastien Dostie, Chris Olivia, Benoit Pelchat
Cinematography: Gyula Pados
Score: John Debney
Editing: Dan Zimmerman
Studio: Davis Entertainment, Troublemaker Studios, Dune Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Stars: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershala Ali, Carey Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears
Suggested Audio Candy:
Little Richard Long Tall Sally
Those predators must be livid. Arnold Schwarzenegger branded them ugly motherfuckers and Danny Glover had the audacity to suggest their faces looked like pussies. They kind of do. Anyhoots, sticks and stones. They’ve been rather muted in recent years since unwittingly becoming Robin to the xenomorphs’ Batman and receiving a haddock-like battering in the process. But there is no killing what can’t be killed, no stopping what can’t be stopped and, by the same token, no stopping franchising which can’t stop being franchised thus voila, Predators.
Our tour of duty begins with a deus ex machina of sorts, its cast literally dropping from the skies as though heaven-sent but landing in a place which more resembles hell. It’s a familiar locale, indeed, it resembles the original hunting ground from John McTiernan’s original and the misfits that plummet to earth are every bit the band of badasses as those who made this one-way expedition over twenty years prior. However, instead of being a tightly woven group of mercs, this time it is a random bouquet of carefully selected rogues from around the globe, none of which have the vaguest idea why they have been chosen for their portentous expedition.
It’s like the ultimate pick-and-mix of no-nonsense gun brandishing pain inflictors and consists of a Japanese Yakuza assassin, Death Row’s most dastardly sociopath, African warlord, emotionally burdened Israeli freedom fighter, noble Chechnyan soldier, Mexican Drug Cartel enforcer, inauspicious all-American doctor and Adrian Brody. My primary consideration was that Brody was a rather poor man’s Schwarzenegger, wiry in frame although piling on the pounds for the role, I just couldn’t shake the memory of The Pianist when looking at Brody’s ringleader. Then he opened his mouth and sounded so grizzled and melancholic that I recalled what an adaptable character actor he really is.
The first act is respectful of the source material and focuses unerringly on setting the scene. They bicker, banter and form both allegiances and personal vendettas, affording each of them enough screen time to stake their claim and grab our attention. There are direct parallels to the original in the casting, particularly of Alice Braga whose Isabelle is a dead ringer for Elpidia Carrillo’s Anna and Mahershala Ali whose spiritual Mombasa is a shoe-in for Sonny Landham’s Billy. He senses something ominous afoot and chews the surrounding rainforest while his new-found associates attempt to fathom why they have been selected for this game of death.
Antal wisely restrains during the opening half hour and builds quietly, whilst keeping momentum through a number of well punctuated action scenes as Antal lines up the dominoes. In scenarios such as these I always look for characters to root for, not the pre-destined final man standing or the token female interest but instead secondary protagonists who you fully expect to be worm food by the time Royce applies his war paints and mercifully Predators has some absolute doozies.
Three in particular resonate strongly with Keeper – Taktarov’s Nicolai is both sympathetic and honorable in equal measures whereas Goggins gives a marvelously smarmy turn as reprobate Stans. Meanwhile Changchien’s light-on-digits reticent Hanzo utters a mere three lines of dialogue but owns one of the film’s standout moments whereby he shows down with a predator using his Kendo blade Seven Samurai-style amongst hauntingly billowing reeds. Beautifully shot and majestically implemented pure brilliance.
Trejo’s Cuchillo was written as a guy who looks like Danny Trejo. Upon receiving this Intel he was straight on the blower to Robert Rodriguez saying “hey, I heard there’s a guy in the script for Predators who looks just like Danny Trejo and guess what, I look just like Danny Trejo!” That tickles me every time and I even can imagine his grinning delivery. He is a firm favorite of Rodriguez’s since his decision to franchise the mocked-up Machete trailer from Grindhouse and is in his element here.
Brody fares reasonably well as cagey Royce. His gruff tones initially seem a little out-of-place but grow on you as the film unravels and it is revealed that his morals are questionable at the very least. He is helped no end by Braga who acts as perfect foil and some crackshot to boot. The mighty Laurence Fishburne puts a brief shift as dualized hermit crab Noland in, a part which took just two days to shoot. When is Fishburne anything less than a pleasure to watch? If you say Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions then I will slap you upside your head. Here, despite his intriguing nod to Apocalypse Now, he is simply under-utilized and it’s a bit of a missed trick in truth.
The action moves at quite a clip despite a slightly sagging second act but any lulls are justified as this is where some of the best dialogue plays out between more ambiguous characters. It is abundantly clear that the only inspiration for Predators was the original movie as this is pretty much a straight homage. John Debney’s rambunctious score echoes this throughout and the closing dittie is none other than Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally, pulled straight from the chopper scene in its predecessor. Alan Silvestri’s original theme also gets a run-out. In that respect it fares better than anticipated and is never once culpable of losing your attention.
Hungarian Antal, who previously bought us the serviceable Vacancy, remains faithful to the roots and, despite this being nearly twenty-five years on, manages to capture the unique feel and tone of its forebear. It isn’t always successful and isn’t the most eloquent speaker but it does pit a ragtag band of less than merry men against predators old and new in a dense booby-trap laden jungle, lights the fuse, then bolts so really what is there to bitch about?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: As much as CGI plays a part, there is also a plethora of practical FX and the name Greg Nicotero being attached alone gives goosebumps. Predators is not as grisly as one might be expecting although we still get the delights of spinal columns being wrestled free as trophies. plentiful impalement and a resplendent predator beheading, replete with phosphorescent grue.
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