Posts Tagged ‘taken movie’



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.




USA / UK 2010   Directed by: Michael Campbell  Produced by: Tim Headlington, Graham King, Michael Wearing  Script: William Monahan, Andrew Bovell  Cinematography: Phil Meheux  Editing: Stuart Baird  Music: Howard Shore  Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic

Seems we’re havin’ our American McMovie week, steering clear of the Asian movie scene for a few days. We’re not sure who’s been waiting for Mel Gibson’s return to acting actually, but we figured we owe him for MAD MAX and gave EDGE OF DARKNESS a try.

The film fits into the latest run of revenge flicks and starts like all the others: Daddy watching a video of his then-still-young daughter. We wonder how often can you copy the exact same opening scene? DEATH SENTENCE, TAKEN, EDGE OF DARKNESS, the first 10 minutes are interchangeable. Seems EDGE OF DARKNESS didn’t give a damn and copied the movie poster art of DEATH SENTENCE as well. Why do it yourself if you can copy it, right?

After the beginning EDGE OF DARKNESS takes a different turn: Gibson’s daughter seems to be terminally ill and gets killed in a drive-by shooting on daddy’s doorsteps. Gibson playing the cop Thomas Craven first thinks he was the target, but soon finds out that his daughter was involved in the affairs of a big bad corporation and might have been high up on their blacklist.

We must admit that we do like revenge flicks. DEATH SENTENCE was good, TAKEN was great. Now EDGE OF DARKNESS is, ahm, a copycat. That alone doesn’t mean it has to be much worse than other films, but something went wrong. We’ve discussed sincerity of movies before, and most probably sincerity is what went wrong. EDGE OF DARKNESS, directed by Martin “James Bond” Campbell and starring Mel “Mad Max was yesterday” Gibson simply doesn’t have the street cred.

It appears that someone just wanted to ride the wave and didn’t know exactly how to do it. The basic plot and dramaturgy are business as usual, but the venture to embed the story into a bigger context to get away from the simple plot of other revenge movies doesn’t work at all. EDGE OF DARKNESS derails completely and gets more ridiculous by the minute, presenting us a stupid conspiracy story surrounding the corporation that is big and bad for obvious reasons. They are actually producing nukes for other countries while being contracted by the US government? No shit. If the scriptwriter (Monahan copied INFERNAL AFFAIRS and re-titled it as THE DEPARTED; congrats) would follow the daily news he would have realized that reality is far, far worse and more complex than his fictional attempt to surprise us with “the shocking truth”.

Since the story makes very little sense we were hoping for some raw action. Mel does have some good lines and the finale is pretty ok. But too many things about EDGE OF DARKNESS are anything but ok. Most of the time Gibson’s acting is somehow off the mark, the same goes for the rest of the cast that is so so-so that it is too obvious they were relying on Gibson’s name alone. Especially Gibson’s reactions and behavior right after the death of his daughter are absolutely not believable. His facial expressions are mostly weird. The shoddy cinematography reminds of Italian crime flicks from the early 80s, and the editing seems jumpy and unfinished. The whole film is bizarre, everything seems out-of-place, either too much or not enough, like Campbell is steering a tiny metal ball through a wooden haze. Plus some hygienic factors are not alright, e.g. some outdoor/indoor locations don’t match and so forth. Raw action? EDGE OF DARKNESS tries, succeeds once or twice, but otherwise doesn’t deliver the goods. Neither the “secrets” nor the movie take us to the edge.

EDGE OF DARKNESS is entirely forgettable as far as content is concerned, and unfortunately form follows function. It’s watchable, yes, but you’ll have to get over the fact that this is a cheesy B-movie disguised as A-list material very quickly, say, after the opening scene. If that works for you, you might find EDGE OF DARKNESS at least funny.