Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie Review: Predators

The second review this week comes from one Ben Coffman, who was tasked with seeing a certain movie about bloodthirsty, dreadlock-wearing monsters (no, not Glenn Beck's home videos of him playing dress up in Jamaica). I'm going to see this movie, whether it's advised or not. Why? Because Predator was the first R-rated movie I saw. Not in the theater, mind you, but on VHS. It was awesome. I was so enthralled by the splatting of organs and the mud-covering of Arnold Schwarzzennipples that I could barely wait to go outside and reenact those scenes...the ones with the shooting and jumping, not the ones where my face split in half and stuff. Anyway, the new one seems like dumb fun, and it's worth noting that it only cost $40 million to make, meaning it doesn't even have to make that much money to be profitable, a nice note for producers out there. Here's Ben's take.
Thin Action Figure
Stallone was busy, so Brody gets bad-ass in Predators
Ben Coffman

Obviously, because of
The Expendables, a film featuring Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Steve Austin and every other available life-size He-Man figure in the universe, there was a dearth of muscle-bound action stars when Predators was being cast.

Would any director in his right mind willingly fill roles previously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (California politics, steroids) and Jesse “The Body” Ventura (Minnesota politics, steroids) with actors like Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody (
The Pianist, being skinny) and Topher Grace (“That ‘70s Show,” wearing skinny jeans)? Unless, of course, Predators was supposed to bend the genre and become a sci-fi shoot ‘em up that blended great action with great acting.

Unfortunately, all of the potential an actor like Brody brings to a project like
Predators doesn’t mean squat if his character only has lines like “You gotta problem with that?” In Predators, Brody plays Royce, a character who could’ve just as easily been referred to as “Bad Ass #1” in the IMDB credits, had he not introduced himself to another character in the final five minutes of the movie. Yes, you just read that last sentence correctly.

The action starts instantly, with Royce waking from a nap mid free fall while plummeting toward an unnamed planet. Luckily, his parachute deploys.
We’re introduced to the characters one by one, amid the rattle of chain-fed Gatling guns and the chaos of battle. We meet the token female character, the token Russian guy (played by mixed martial arts pioneer Oleg Tektarov), the token Mexican guy (Danny Trejo) and the token intellectual, a physician (Grace). We’re “introduced” to a few other characters as well, but they die in short order (and spectacular fashion).

Director Nimród Antal, who was responsible for the Luke Wilson/Kate Beckinsale torture porn flick
Vacancy, seems to very clearly grasp his role: do no harm. Borrowing from the conventions of its progenitors (which includes the original, a sequel and a couple of Alien vs. Predator spinoffs), Predators toes the genre’s line and plays it safe, never daring to exceed its audience’s expectations.

With that said,
Predators does plenty right: Its chase scenes are intense, its fight scenes are filled with arterial sprays and it ups the ante on the earlier films in the series, introducing a super predator. (Yes, you heard right, the deadliest hunter in the universe is now available in version 2.0.) Antal also elicits some surprisingly good acting from his supporting actors, especially those not wearing giant dreadlocked masks.

Unfortunately, it’s an unimaginative script and an out-of-place Brody that keeps
Predators from reaching its full potential. Bulked up with bandoliers and growling in his best Christian Bale-as-Batman voice, Brody’s tough-guy act comes across as an ego-driven opportunity to show off some hard-earned (and nascent) muscles.

Predators has few scares and even fewer surprises. Like Chris Hansen’s “To Catch a Predator,” most of the narrative is spent waiting for the players to figure out what the audience already knows—that the players aren’t where they think they are. If that sounds good to you, well then, why don’t you have a seat over there?

Grade: C+

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