PREDATORS

http://www.predators-movie.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: Nimrod Antal Written by: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch  Characters: Jim Thomas, John Thomas Produced by: Elizabeth Avellan, John Davis, Robert Rodriguez  Cinematography: Gyula Pados  Editing: Dan Zimmermann  Music: John Debney Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changien, Carey Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears

Boom. Brody falls from the sky, smack dab in the middle of a tropical jungle. Gets up and realizes there are others like him: mercenaries, yakuza or criminals, all ending up on the – island (?) – with no recollection of what’s happened and how they got here. Very soon they’ll have other things on their minds: chased by abominable carnivores, walking from one lethal trap into another they begin to realize they are not here coincidentally, but are obviously part of some cryptic master plan. The only question is: who is the master and how do you beat him?

With Robert Rodriguez quasi-helming the project expectations were high that the PREDATOR franchise could be taken back to the roots of a man vs. alien all-out war, with some over-the-top set pieces and gross stuff a la PLANET TERROR as a bonus. In fact, PREDATORS literally is planet terror as it turns out. And Rodriguez initially doesn’t let us down.

First off, PREDATORS begins on a high note, with a great opening sequence and cool punch lines. Brody is exceptional; what Neeson did for TAKEN Brody does for PREDATORS. Impressive. The exploration of the jungle, the hints to what’s going on here and the first encounter with our old fiend friend keep us tied to the seat, eagerly waiting for the story to unfold.

But watching PREDATORS very quickly resembles watching the stock market on a bad day, opening on a high and closing on a low: PREDATORS lives up to fan expectations until lunch time, but then plunges and never recovers. What a shame.

With a strong cast (including Brody, Walton THE SHIELD Goggins, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo and Lawrence Fishburne), early action mayhem and enough mystery to keep us guessing PREDATORS is on course to genre movie greatness. Then however it becomes clear that Rodriguez first and foremost is a borrower, not a master blender.

Soon after the opening we feel LOST. I was willing to look the other way but it’s just too obvious. Yet, it works for a while. Then we walk into the tribal camps of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, marvel at futuristic planets just like the ARMY OF DARKNESS, finally we don’t know anymore if we’re on a planet or in a CUBE. When we meet John Locke in his cave – excuse me, Lawrence Fishburne / Noland –, it is too late to turn the ship around.

PREDATORS must have dropped its compass in the row, and the remaining forty minutes or so are as repetitive as the world’s most nonsense island saga. One after another gets killed, with the BATTLE ROYALE interspersed by the well-known thermal images: man vs. alien, man vs. man and beast vs. beast, they really throw in everything they’ve got.

Along the way the movie’s hard-boiled coolness and black humor keep flaring up, so PREDATORS is nevertheless watchable throughout. In fact, it is the best PREDATOR sequel to date (that includes the AVP spin-offs), but different from the original it lacks suspense and sophistication. I liked Antal’s KONTROLL that showed his ability to dramatize and change the pace anytime to steer the audience’s expectations, but it seems he lost control over PREDATORS and succumbed to Rodriguez’ tendency to outsmart everyone, including himself.

We are witnessing a tragic case of opportunities unseized. Too bad. Another one bites the dust. Two stars or the movie, one star for Brody.

J.


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