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Movie Review: Predators

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When a new version of the classic Predator character first came along with the reboot/sequel/rehash (call it what you like) Alien vs. Predator, it was a big disappoint to those who were looking for more hardcore, bloody action from one of action-sci-fi’s best monsters. Then came AVP 2: Requiem which took things from the bottom of the barrel to lying flattened under it.

However, now along comes Predators, which is essentially a reboot of a franchise that badly needed some fresh blood injected into it. The team behind it includes director Nimrod Antal (director of the underrated Vacancy and the moderately entertaining Armored), producer Robert Rodriguez and newcomer writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch.

Although Predators is never what you would call a classic of its genre (come to think of it, what was the last truly classic action/sci-fi film?), thankfully it delivers a healthy dose of the kind of fun, suspense and excitement you’d want from a film about the titular killers.

The plot of Predators is about as basic as you can get: A group of tough killers are dropped onto another planet and are hunted down by mysterious and dangerous predators.

In principal a film with as simplistic a plot as that shouldn’t be worth spending the time it takes to watch it. However, right off the bat this isn’t claiming to be Oscar-worthy or even be particularly memorable. What it aims to do is provide a couple of hours of brainless, stupid fun and for the most part it succeeds.

That’s not to say there aren’t weaknesses to be found. If you step back and look at Predators from a more objective stand-point, then you’ll find fault with everything from the overly dramatic dialogue (that often feels like it’s lifted straight from a cheesy straight-to-DVD movie) to twists-and-turns that cheapen the film as a whole.

My main complaint with it was the overly repetitive nature of the action. Although when we’re deep in a shoot-out or suspense scene it’s wholly fun to behold, there’s a repetitiveness to the proceedings that becomes quite boring. By the fifth or sixth time we go through the same formula – safety, suspense, danger, suspense, safety, rinse in blood and repeat! – it felt like things really needed to move on to a new location or revelation about why the characters are there.

Predators does a pretty good job of paying tribute to the original characters and 1987 film yet still being very much its own entity. As far as the former goes, there are several references to the original film (one in particular involving a subtle mention of the original team from the first movie and the fact that only one person survived by covering himself in mud) and the general tone (suspenseful but fun) is kept pretty similar to the original.

The film boasts a very impressive cast, one that the film doesn’t truly live up to. Adrien Brody – whose been enjoying a very welcome revival as of late after his baffling inactivity following his Oscar win for The Pianist – makes a compelling leading man, even if he seems to be trying a tad too hard to put on a tough guy persona (his gruff voice is particularly distracting). Alice Braga, an actress I’ve been keeping an eye on ever since City of God, is suitably tough as the only woman (literally) to be seen on the planet. And even if Laurence Fishburne is completely wasted, at least people like Topher Grace are passable.

What bothered me (and I imagine I’m not alone) is the clichéd characters. Although that may be a nod to action films of the past (when that sort of thing was newer to audiences), the fact that each character seems handed picked from audience expectations is very distracting. A black-op solider, a death-row prisoner, a doctor, a Mexican cartel enforcer and even a member of the Yakuza… seriously?

Predators could have used an established writer of action or sci-fi (preferably both) to make it flow a bit better. The pace is way off, with a repetitiveness that detracts from an otherwise fun experience. And don’t even get me started on some of the twists in the story (one in particular near the end) that redefines dumb.

But those things aside, for the most part I had a blast with Predators. It may not be as good as the original and nowhere near good enough to enter the list of best sci-fi/action movies but hey, at least it’s a step in the right direction.

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About Ross Miller

  • Not sure if I will get out to see it but it sounds like a good choice for cable reruns