|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Thursday, 08 July 2010 16:00|
Director: Nimrod Antal
"A slightly above-average actioner that tries to compensate for tissue-thin plot with ever-more-grisly death sequences and impressive special effects" - that was Variety back in 1987 on John McTiernan's original Predator. And it's a pretty accurate analysis. Undeveloped characters, non-existent story, over-the-top gore. Step in Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal, ready to give modern audiences more of the same. The result is one heck of a reboot. Remake. Sequel. Thing.
We're dropped right into the action along with mercenary Royce (Brody), who has the luxury of an automated parachute. As soon as he hits the ground, the title appears in massive letters - even without directing, the clearly eager Rodriguez is making sure things rattle along to his tune. And they do, for the most part. We quickly meet the rag-tag bunch of bitchy killer humans, from angry cartel fighter Cuchillo (Trejo) to the pretty but ruthless Isabelle (Braga). Except for the mild-mannered doctor, Edwin (Grace), they're all ready to kill each other. Until the Predators turn up.
With traps springing from trees all over the jungle, the pacing is full-tilt from the get-go, but never at the cost of dramatic tension; in keeping with the original's slow-burn reveal, we don't see the creatures until over 30 minutes in. And what creatures they are. Wielding better cloaking devices, upgraded shoulder canons, and freaky evil hunting dogs, Antal and Rodriguez revamp everyone's favourite mandibled monsters without losing their ancestors' pixel-free charm. Evolved and improved, the sleek new Predators sit at the top of their brutal hierarchy, unafraid of hacking up humans and ripping out spines. Even with a 15 certificate, they're as bad-ass as ever.
But not as bad-ass as their prey. Bumping into crazy survivor Noland (a wonderfully hammy Fishburne), the gang of humans all get their 10 minutes of grizzly showdown before being bumped off one-by-one. Well directed by Antal, the action moves with the same edgy energy he had in his debut, Kontroll. The set pieces are contrived but satisfyingly gruesome, particularly the Yakuza's blade-on-blade carve-up in the middle of a peaceful meadow.
In between we get the usual chit-chat, teasing out the distrust of the group: "If you're not human, what are you?" "Alive." Alex Litvak and Michael Finch won't win any awards for their dialogue, but the broad strokes they use to paint their endangered cast fit the B-Movie mould perfectly ("When I get out of here I'm going to do so much fucking cocaine!")
In the lead, Adrien Brody is almost unrecognisable as a butch alpha male. Sporting a big gun and actual muscles, his on-screen presence balances out his Christian Bale impression whenever he talks. He's even quite likeable. You know, for a bastard. Braga does good as the mud-covered romantic interest, and although Fishburne is wasted, the others are more than decent hunting fodder.
Clocking in at under two hours, Antal's Predators is a taut beast. With an alien world as nicely realised as Cameron's Avatar, the artistic merit comes from the care with which it's all crafted; the colourful woods, the stunning skyline (let's not mention that terrible fake explosion). Faithful to its heritage and enjoyable to boot, Predators understands exactly what it wants to be. Characterisation isn't the aim here. It's more about men in suits pummelling each other without CGI. And on that level alone, Predators surpasses its fans' expectations.
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