6 July 2010 | movedout
Not a radical departure from expectations but a solid sci-fi actioner
It is important to note that despite it's perspicuous title, Nimrod Antal's "Predators" is no reboot of its establishing material. It's a honest-to-goodness sequel to the first two Predators films; a long awaited one at that after a couple of detours into the realm of crossovers into the "Alien" universe. It does however represent a stylistic update and intriguing expansion of the franchise's filmic mythology that also spans Dark Horse Comics' graphic novels and its video games.
However, if there ever were to be a more convincing statement of intent in relaunching this franchise, it would have been putting its marquee producer Robert Rodriguez to work in a film so suited to his aesthetics and stylistic idiosyncrasies. But Rodriquez's pick to helm this film almost proves to be reason enough to watch this given that Nimrod Antal is one of the most exciting directors around these days. Antal's direction has always coincided with his a strong sense of atmosphere and character development. With his fascinating debut, "Kontroll" and his cleverly constructed meta-slasher, "Vacancy" as well as with last year's taut action spectacle "Armored", Antal has shown himself to be an effective genre director in that he's both comfortable in affirming a particular genre as he is deconstructing it. And in "Predators", he infuses it with not just a showcase of tried and tested sci-fi ideals but also a discernible impression of a robust horror film.
Antal keeps things moving along at an exhilarating pace by introducing a rag-tag team of mercenaries and criminals getting air-dropped into a highly tropical and vegetative alien planet tailored by the ruthless and single-minded Predator race as a game reserve for the insufficiently armed humans and other prey. Its mise-en-scene immediately hearkens back to the jungle warfare of the first "Predator". As the movie gods demand, the herd gets thinned as the race of alien hunters reveal themselves to be superior in both their technology and understanding of game theory. Kept alive by de facto leader, the preternaturally perspicacious Royce (Adrien Brody), the band of humans begin to formulate their plan of survival against the truly fearsome Predators and their formidable weaponry.
Brody's presence seems almost folly at first – a gruff vocal inflection worthy of Christian Bale's in "The Dark Knight" underscores a predictably rote tough guy but to his credit, a good actor always manages to sell his act despite himself. Like his character, who sees no virtue in human connection but instead adopts a ranger-like approach to survival, Brody doesn't seem to create much chemistry with his cast mates in his relatively new role as action hero. The rest of its main supporting cast are split of into archetypes – Alice Braga is Isabelle, an Israeli soldier and its burgeoning conscience, Topher Grace plays Dr. Edwin, the geeky comic relief and notably, the talented Walter Goggins of TV's "The Shield" and "Justified" is the smarmy knife-wielding death-row convict, Stans. Also, rounding of the surviving humans is the reticent Yakuza gangster, Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and the relatively noble Chechnyan soldier, Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov).
Antal manages this character list well enough. As the chase progresses, you get a distinct feel of each human before they start to fall victim to their raison d'être. Besides a late flurry of actual and conspicuous violence, "Predators" actually fares better in its early scenes where the humans explore their predicament and the film plays the suspense card remarkably well. There's an actual interest in finding out the psyches of these mysterious humans who are hunters and monsters on Earth but scurrying mice on the Predator's turf.
If anything else, the script provides little genuine surprises in it storytelling. Given its inherent similarities, the film bares a stunning amount of resemblance to last year's terrific "Pandorum" – where a space crew wakes up with no memory onboard a vessel designed as a Noah's Ark of sorts to vicious creatures hunting them. There's a scene with Laurence Fishburne as the planet's loony veteran survivor that cribs more than just mood but actual dialogue from the superior film.
"Predators" doesn't change the game too much but as far as delivering a solid and experience to its fanbase, it releases itself from the shackles of relying on crossovers and re-establishes the Predator as one of Hollywood's most fertile sources of sci-fi villains.