In 2002, a quiet little movie about the Holocaust introduced us to a slim, sensitive actor with eyes that have seen too, too much. Adrian Brody took home the Oscar on the power of those eyes, and now he turns their unfathomable gaze…down the barrel of a machine gun at the Predator. This odd piece of casting inadvertently sets an oddly defensive tone for the first chunk of the movie. Churlish badasses are scripted to cower before Brody’s character’s superior badassery while the audience checks to see if they accidentally kept their 3-D glasses on from the last movie they saw. When Topher Grace shows up, your first thought might be, “wait, we already have the skinny nebbish role cast.” (Or perhaps: “Wait, Nicholas Cage already has this job.”) Brody growls and stalks confidently and manages to mostly overcome his art-house appearance through sheer grit, but his mercenary never quite feels possible. New writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch give Brody as many aces up his sleeve as they can, but the other characters (easily including Alice Braga and not necessarily excluding Grace) look like they could still dismantle him.
If you can get past this cognitive dissonance (my audience of critics never seemed able to), Brody really does do a god job with what he has, and the rest of the movie is, well, watchable. This is admittedly more than I expected. Taking a page from the Superman Returns book, Predators pretends that no sequels occurred since 1987’s seminal testosteronifest, Predator. This was actually a very good decision; Aliens Vs. Predators might have technically been fun, but it definitely did the franchise no favors. This one’s got Oscar caliber folks in it! Oh, wait, so did… Anyway.
Like a responsible sequel, Predators ups the game, with infrequently seen bigger and badder Big Bads, and also Classic Predator for the kids. It seems like a good idea to give us more on the Predators, but remember those other movies after 1987 that did that? No good. Follow Aliens’ lead on this one. Now, Predators is no Aliens, but I appreciate the effort. The next good decision Litvak and Finch and director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) made was in the character portrayed by Laurence Fishburne. Every second Fishburne is on screen (looking like he hasn’t missed a meal since the first Predator movie) is a sheer delight.
When the story is forced to end the welcome Fishburne Respite, and lurches back to the matter at hand (you know, humans being hunted by Predators), it does so as clumsily and reluctantly as everything Grace’s character does, but with less reason. From here, things get unnecessarily complicated and maybe it was meant to be profound, but it felt more like the producers reminded the film crew that they only get 106 minutes to tell this story and they have already wasted a lot of time slogging their cast and crew through the mud. Finally, the unintentional campy moment required of all big overblown action movies (compliments of La Brody) and a nice fun old-school end to the film.
Predators, considering that it is actually the 5th movie featuring a fairly interesting advanced species that thinks somehow that we Earthlings are still worthy game, takes a lot more time than it needs to for our leads to figure out that they are maybe being chased by something and they should maybe work together or die alone. We know before we bought our tickets that some technosavvy dreadlocked baddies are going to come into play, and the movie struggles with the balance between “semi-reasonable character development” and “get on with the slaughtering.” (Pause for Deep Social Commentary and pan camera over Awesome Unappreciated Midden Props.)
I enjoyed watching our band of badass misfits bumble around Hawaii and I enjoyed working out their narrative value and order of predation. The gratuitous — no, almost vestigial — Yakuza guy threw off my prediction game by having a purpose briefly, but over all I think I was dead on in my predictions until they threw in what was meant to be the big mind-blow but was instead seriously unnecessary (see also: Topher Grace). It’s a weird sort of compliment, but Predators being awkward, predictable, and occasionally funny was a nice summer refreshment. Of course, it’s been a long dry summer, so it might just be a mirage.
MPAA Rating R – strong creature violence and gore, pervasive language
Release date 7/9/10
Time in minutes 106
Director Nimrod Antal
Studio 20th Century Fox