Welcome back, you ugly motherf***ers ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Welcome back, you ugly motherf***ers

My rating:

I really should've done Retro Reviews of the Predator series. I have the first two on DVD (albeit one of those crappy 8-in-1 ones), and I watched them both not too long ago - but then I remembered I'd probably have to do those two Alien vs. Predator movies too, which I do not own on DVD and have never watched to boot. And I wasn't particularly keen to, since both are reportedly not very good (the second one infamously so). But not to worry, since as a child of the '80s, TMBF has more than a passing familiarity with the series - enough to be worried that, seeing as how it's another jungle setting with virtually the same premise, this sequel-cum-reboot might turn out to be a beat-for-beat rehash of the first.

Fortunately, it isn't. It's smart enough and good enough to be a proper Predator sequel, and better than all the others.

Eight people are literally dropped into a hostile jungle: an American mercenary (Adrien Brody), an Israeli sniper (Alice Braga), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo), a Russian Spetsnaz commando (Oleg Taktarov), a convict on Death Row (Walton Goggins), a Yakuza member (Louis Ozawa Changchien), an African death squad assassin (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and a geeky doctor (Topher Grace). They realize that they are all trained killers - with the exception of the doctor - and that they have been brought here by the Predators, an alien race of big-game hunters. It is all they can do to stay alive at first - but when they encounter Noland (Laurence Fishburne), a long-time survivor, an opportunity arises for the hunted to become hunters.

Okay, let's do this quick: The first Predator was one of the best sci-fi/action movies of the '80s - not just for introducing the nifty concept of the Predator, but also for the entertainingly over-the-top characters and dialogue, and how the tone delicately straddles cheeseball and serious action-horror. (And yes, the Predator series is horror. They're practically slasher films.) Predator 2, on the other hand, was a disappointment; it wallows in bad cop-movie clich├ęs, its brand of cheese was of the taking-itself-far-too-seriously variety, it was often unpleasantly sleazy and exploitative, and Danny Glover was miscast. (You don't get a guy who's most famous for playing Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon series to play a Martin Riggs-type character.)

Predators is a Predator sequel done right, in all the ways that count. From its thrilling opening, where Adrien Brody's character (he remains unnamed till the end, as do most of the others) wakes up to find himself plummeting through the air, the film maintains an atmosphere of constant tension and dread throughout, comparable to the 1987 original. What that one did was to take seven badass guys, supremely confident in their badassery, and have them gradually realize there's something out there that utterly pwns them. In this film however, our guys are also pretty badass, but right from the beginning they are lost and disoriented and well aware that they are out of their depth. It's a different dynamic, and director Nimrod Antal - with plenty of guidance from writer and producer Robert Rodriguez, I'm sure - makes good use of it.

It helps that it's R-rated, with all the violence and gore that entails. (None of which, profane dialogue included, is censored, hurrah!) Which helps a lot - nothing like knowing the movie isn't afraid to spill blood, dismember appendages, or eviscerate body parts to keep you in suspense. All of which helps you overlook its small weaknesses: the characters aren't as cool as the first, it offers a glimpse into the Predators' world - the fact that there are two feuding factions of them - without delving into it satisfactorily, and it's somewhat predictable which of the eight are gonna die next. But seriously, the constant tension makes up for a lot. Even a lengthy, exposition-heavy dialogue scene in its midsection holds your attention - partly because of Laurence Fishburne's enjoyably nutty performance in it.

Apparently Adrien Brody lobbied hard for his role as the de facto leader of this motley band of action anti-heroes. It's nice that an Academy Award-winning character actor is a fan of the Predator franchise, but honestly, I thought casting him in this was a gamble that didn't exactly pay off. He's okay in the role, but he doesn't quite reinvent himself as the next Schwarzenegger either. The acting in this is kinda hit and miss, really; Alice Braga is somewhat flat (and I happen to think she's really hawt), and Topher Grace is also just about competent. Aside from Fishburne, the most entertaining one is Walton Goggins, who gets some of the funniest lines. But honestly, don't go into this one looking for great acting, which is a small disappointment because the original did have some fun performances.

When I walked out of this, I was ready to proclaim it as good as the first. I'm no longer so sure though. Granted, I never did think Predator is a classic or anything; it was just very good, and looking back on it right now I'd give it 4 stars. This one isn't as well-crafted, but it gets the important things right - the constant sense of dread, and the right balance between action and horror, plus a few bits of smart writing to boot. Rodriguez titled it Predators because he wanted it to be Aliens to the original's Alien. It doesn't quite reach those heights (very few sequels do), but it's still the best Predator movie since the original. And for a concept that's as cool as the Predators, that's still very good.

NEXT REVIEW: Despicable Me
Expectations: been hearing good things about it


Anonymous said...

fuck you and your reviews

TMBF said...

Sweet, my first hate mail! Thanks for visiting! :D

profwacko said...

I was hoping to see more of the predators weapon, armaments, but this movie doesn't have it.

But 1 thing i know now, the Predators + Aliens hybrid is superior than the original predators. Cool..

Rashdan said...

It must be hate mail from a Malay film director. Congratulations, you are now infamous.

McGarmott said...

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