Predators (Nimrod Antal, 2010)
Third in the Predator Series
A bunch of tough guys (soldiers, mercenaries and a death-row convict), one seemingly harmless — he’s played by Topher Grace after all – doctor and one really hot female (with hair strands spilling sexily into her face as she firmly grasps hold of that big gun while managing tough gal flirtations with Adrien Brody’s mercenary character) find themselves transported, individual weapons included, from all corners of the violent Earth to the jungle of some hostile planet to be hunted as sport for a species of creatures (the Predators, naturally).
It’s the third and last of the singular Predator films, before moving on to the two Alien Vs Predator efforts (where things go really downhill), in my goal to view all things Alien related before catching up with that latest (Giger-)creature feature, which comes with a suspiciously pretentious subtitle of “Covenant”.
First, it must be said, director Nimrod (I know it’s usual to use the last name… but with that first name how could I not give in to my adolescent proclivities?) and the crew definitely maximized the impressive jungle setting, including some really awesome rock face formations, for our characters to stumble, climb, run over and be killed in. And the ‘Predator killing campfire’ location, where those big, bad and heavily-armed aliens hang their skinned kill (and also leave a captive Predator, but more on that later), is nicely effective and evocative. It’s an impressively realized world, successfully continuing the trend of all three of the films (with the apocalyptic urban world of the second film being my overall favourite by far). And while the ever-present, overstated and unsophisticated Hollywood score, determined to bash us over the head and tell us how we should feel at every moment (no matter how obvious it all is – I mean, these aren’t Andrei Tarkovsky’s Predators, they’re Nimrod’s!), does it’s best to annoy and undermine the experience, it can’t kill those impressive landscapes. Perhaps the most terrible sin of the score is when it suddenly underlines the mostly classical vibe with this rock n’ roll electronica near the finale in an attempt to crank up the ‘action’ feeling, yet only managing to emphasize how lazily uninspired it is. Well, at least its nice to hear Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” over the end credits in an homage to the first film’s use of the song.
Adrien Brody has to be one of the most overrated, obnoxious and unlikeable actors to ever win an Oscar (for a performance, by the way, in which he kept pursing his lips like someone afflicted with a form of Tourette’s as an attempt, I guess, at displaying sophistication) and the idea of him in this film as the head bad-ass soldier was a chasm of faith I just couldn’t clear. For one thing, no matter how much he tries to affect a low gravelly voice and fixed grim look, it’s just hard to get passed that large honker he has at the end of his face. As I remember Rue Morgue Radio’s Last Chance saying during his review of the film many moons ago, former real-life convict (and welcome presence herein) Danny Trejo (playing just one of a number of our ensemble who look like they could body slam Brody into submission in a nano-second, and that includes the hot chick) must have looked at Brody playing tough and thought “Man, I used to fuck guys like him in prison”. There is a moment in the film where our group finds itself in a physical pickle and the scared Doc asks “Where’s the tough guy?” as he stands next to a big block-headed Russian who looks like he could destroy the entire field of UFC competitors en masse… and it took me a minute to realize in disbelief that he meant the Brody character. And watching Brody deliver the occasional one-liner in his entirely humourless style made me pine for Big Arnie in the first one. I mean, Schwarzenegger might be stiff and awkward (and the one-liners themselves equally as trite), but at least Arnie has a glint of knowing humor in his eye; a self-awareness that Brody could learn from (okay, saying that, I will say… I did adore Brody as Salvador Dali in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” in which he plays the role of the absurd surrealist, with his effected performance working so perfectly it makes me think it’s perhaps the one role he was born to play).
The Doc character is that guy who, to help along the plot, is somehow blessed with scientific knowledge about everything; not only an expert on body decomposition, behavioural experiments, but on botany, as he points out the Latin names of the rarest exotic poisonous plants (and I mean these plants are especially rare and exotic, considering they’re blooming on another planet). Alice Braga, playing the sexy soldier interest for our adolescent boy fantasies, is not only seriously hot but a decent actor as well and manages to convey some intensity (despite the film presenting most everything as fairly innocuous). Lawrence Fishburne as a previous arrival they stumble across who has managed to survive, yet gone insane in the process, hiding in a derelict space ship (leading to the obvious question – the Predators never thought of looking in the ship before for some easy pickings?) phones in his performance, which unfortunately isn’t something foreign to Mr. Fishburne.
The Predators themselves take way too long to directly engage, considering, as the audience, we know it’s them. Instead, our characters spend time fighting off some fairly unconvincing cartoon-looking four-legged alien creatures, struggling with the standard group in-fighting and making all sorts of wild assumptions about what’s going on that prove entirely accurate (with the lead Brody’s character seems to exactly figure everything out at every step).
The film does add to the Predator mythos, creating two forms of warring Predators (with one being the one we’ve known from the first two films and the other, a slightly different and apparently stronger variation), though I’m not sure this ever went anywhere further into the lore and doesn’t add much, other than the introduction of another pretty cool, if fairly similar Predator to the one we all know and love and a plot device leading to that aforementioned captive Predator helping the Brody character.
As these movies go on, though, I’m getting more confused about when the Predators actually attack. The original explanation was that they only attack if people are holding weapons (bit of a convenient plot device, that), but here people die willy nilly (as they did in the second one) in the name of, I guess, surprise.
The mostly silent Japanese Yakuza (who finally speaks in one of the few genuinely amusingly written moments of the film) suddenly deciding to go all mano-a-mano with a Predator is one of those culturally tone-deaf moments that Hollywood execs never fail to excel at (with the Brody character and the undressing and preparing warrior exchanging a nod of understanding – I mean… What? It’s some yakuza thing that Brody gets?).
Yes, the environment is evocatively rendered and the (original) Predator remains a cool creation, even in this third go-around. Yet, everything else in the film is mediocre in its ambition and relatively uninspired. Other than Part 2, which I really enjoyed for its violent urban comic book milieu, can’t say these Predator films did much for me.