Predators (2010) dir. Nimród Antal
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Lawrence Fishburne, Alice Braga
By Alan Bacchus
A true pleasure to see producer Robert Rodriguez exercise technological restraint in rebooting the 'Predator', which never really was a franchise, but a solid one off actioner in 1987 and then a few unnecessary and underwhelmed sequels and spin-offs (though I can't vouch for the comics, not having read them). Without any real dramatic lore in story, Rodriguez and Antal essentially repeat what made the first film so special - real world on location jungle filmmaking, muscular but fun loving action characters, and a careful build up suspense and tension over pyrotechnics.
The opening finds Royce (Adrien Brody) waking up from sleep free falling from the sky. It's no luck that he has a parachute, which allows him to land to safety in a jungle. Soon he's joined by others, all strangers with the only commonality their badass attitudes and proficiency with weapons and killing. Among them are a Japanese Yakuza, a Latin American guerrilla warrior, a Russian military officer, a prison lifer among others. Of course they all speak English, but it's Royce who does most of the talking and thinking.
Royce figures out they've been brought here to be hunted by some kind of new world sadistic game of combat. Thus, it's The Most Dangerous Game again but with a couple of monumental twists - 1) the hunters are Predators, those 7 foot tall rasta warriors with cloaking devices, shoulder-mounted laser sighted cannons and fluorescent blood, and 2) the biggest reveal, and excuse the SPOILER.....but.... it's another planet!
This second act reveal is a great moment, well timed by Antal and his writers. This means escape will be very difficult for our heroes. It's helluva ride which mimics the structure pacing, mood and even dialogue of the original McTiernan/Jim & John Thomas classic. Even John Debney's score uses the themes from Alan Silvestri's thunderous original music.
Adrien Brody immediately emerges as the leader of the group and the one with all the answers. He's a curious choice for lead, he's got the attitude but not the commanding screen presence nor muscular physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brody even lays on a gravelly Batman voice to mask his New York City droll. Out of the minor characters some genuine emotion emerges - specifically the relationship between the prison lifer and the hardassed Russian. Lawrence Fishburne turns in a scene chewing performance as the only survivor from another game session, which has turned him into a raving lunatic.
With all the CG effects at Antal's disposal, he admirably exercises restraint in keeping the action simple, a battle of wits, which, like the original, ends up as a one-on-one combat - hunter vs. hunter. And amid the b-movie self-reverential pastiche is the social commentary of man's place in the world and top of the food chain. The final moments also wonderfully tease us to another instalment, of which I will gladly lay down my money for.
Predators is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment