Predators: Where Have All The Tough Men Gone?

In the original Predator, which is the most rugged and masculine movie in the history of action films, it took Arnold Schwarzenegger all film long to take down ONE Predator, after it had already made mincemeat of Carl Weathers, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bill Duke, and others. Now, we are on a Predator planet with vicious Predator animals and multiple Predators, and who are our heroes? The Pianist, Eric from That 70s Show, Shane from The Shield, a skinny ninja, and the damsel in distress from I Am Legend. Really? I’m supposed to get super-excited when I see Adrien Brody with no guns beating up a Predator with his fists? At a time when Jay Baruchel is saving the world, Adrien Brody is beating up predators, Michael Cera is about to beat up Brandon Routh in a film, and Seth Rogen is going to be a superhero, I ask you– where are the tough guys? Is The Expendables our last hope? Predators has other worse problems than casting, such as the execution and story, but all I could think during the film was… if this is our tough guy film, and this is our cast, then God help the action genre.

The opening shot of Adrien Brody in free fall is a compelling beginning to the film– we don’t know where we are, neither do the characters, and one of the free fallers meets an unfortunate end within minutes of the film’s beginning. Eventually, we meet a series of killers– a mercenary (Brody), a Marine (Alice Braga), a Mexican cartel murderer (Danny Trejo), a rapist (Walton Goggins), a Russian (Oleg Taktarov), a Japanese assassin (Louis Changchien), an African gang enforcer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and, out of place, a smartass young American doctor (Topher Grace). They soon realize, despite being on a planet with oxygen in the atmosphere and Earth-based plant life on the ground, they are not on Earth at all, but in a different galaxy with multiple moons and a sun that never moves in the sky– don’t attempt to explain the science of this, as there’s no point. They also realize they’re being systematically hunted by aliens who kill other killers and hang them up as trophies. With Adrien Brody as the group leader, they try to find a way to get off the island and survive.

Outside of the very interesting beginning, there really isn’t a trace of this movie that isn’t predictable down to the T. The original Predator managed to make you care about the characters and wonder what they were going to bring to the table in taking them down. Here, we have a series of mostly unlikable characters with one dimension a piece, and their dimension is their killing technique. Machete, sword, machine gun, sniper, etc. Walton Goggins is given some darkly funny lines as the rapist, and Topher Grace has a moment or two as the only sympathetic character, but they both survive an unrealistically long period of time for two skinny boys without weapons fighting super-killer aliens. Laurence Fishburne has a gleeful Colonel Kurtzesque cameo in the middle of the film, but it doesn’t last long enough. He seems to have been a victim of script cuts, as his character gets to babble for a bit, reveals one plot point, and then quickly isn’t in the film anymore. Why have an interesting personality-filled character for so little time?

On top of that, the action is murky at best. The whole thing is cloaked in darkness, and while it seems that’s the logical choice for the jungle, I’ve seen plenty of jungle films which carefully place shadow and light and move the camera with grace in order to establish geography and plainly show the audience the action. Here, between darkness and rapid cutting, it’s hard to tell. There really aren’t any cool kills– the coolest one being an homage to one of the coolest kills in the first Predator film. It’s all fine, but never soars past that level. There’s also a preposterous plot twist toward the end which is (a) predictable and (b) groan-worthy. A neat idea or two are put into the script, but the execution lets us down. For example, if you’d told me before seeing the film that we’d get a duel between a ninja assassin and a Predator, I would have been excited. The reality of the execution of the scene is that it’s simply not as cool as it sounds– an apt phrase to describe the movie on the whole.

Then, we have Adrien Brody. He’s speaking in his gruffest, most gravelly tone of voice, and he is absolutely committed to showing us that his character is a cold-blooded man. I can’t blame Brody for his inability to carry this film– I can blame those who cast him. He’s simply wrong for this part and wrong for this type of movie. In King Kong, I excused him as the action hero, because the hero was supposed to be this nebbish screenwriter… a perfect role for Brody. Here, as the most dangerous mercenary on the planet, he’s not even remotely believable. At one point, he takes off his shirt, and he has a sculpted torso, but he’s still a string bean. He looked like a shorter skinnier Michael Phelps: a nerd who happened to be in great shape. In action movies of this nature, we need a beefy guy that you wouldn’t want to meet in a back alley. Here, the beefiest guys are *mild spoiler* the ones who last the shortest amount of time. Maybe that’s the Predators’ strategy– kill the actual threats, and let the women and skinny guys flail in the wind. If you’re asking me to buy a Predator planet with all its goofy science, I will. If you’re asking me to accept a subpar predictable script and okay action scenes, I can even abide that in some cases. But if you’re asking me to believe that Adrien Brody can beat up a Predator with his bare hands, then sir, you have gone too far.

~ by russellhainline on July 22, 2010.

One Response to “Predators: Where Have All The Tough Men Gone?”

  1. Further, there is the problem of, “If they kill all of the predators, then what? Aren’t they still on an unknown planet in an unknown galaxy?” Sure, there’s a spaceship over there, but does one just hop on a spaceship and drive it home?

    And if I’m expected to attend a sequel to answer these questions, I think I would prefer them to remain unanswered.

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