Sunday, November 28, 2010

Horror Film Review

Predators (2010):  This isn't really a horror movie.  Sure, there are monsters and chasing and screaming and bloody killings...ok, maybe "horror" isn't so wrong.  And it's considered the only direct sequel to the 1987 offering.  Does it live up to the standards set in the first one which featured former governors Schwarzenegger and Ventura?  Yes and no.

What first struck me is that this movie doesn't screw around.  There are the drums and horns of the Twentieth Century Fox intro (which still gives me goosebumps because of the original Star Wars films I saw in the theater as a child) and then Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios logo.  After that?  We're launched into the movie with no further ado.  No title sequence, no listing of cast and crew, just Adrian Brody regaining consciousness while falling through the sky at 120 mph.  It's effective.  I found myself sucked right in. 

Brody's chute opens at the last minute and he slams into the floor of a jungle.  We soon discover a number of others are in the same boat.  They all remember a while light and then waking up in freefall.  I'm not giving anything away by saying these folks were snatched from Earth to be used as prey by the predators on an alien world.  There are eight in the group.  Brody plays Royce (ex-military mercenary), Alice Braga is Isabelle (sexy and deadly Israeli operative), Walton Goggins is Stans (murderer/rapist on death row), Oleg Taktarov is Nikolai (Spetsnaz soldier), Danny Trejo is Cuchillo (drug cartel henchman), Louis Ozawa Changchien is Hanzo (button man for the Yakuza), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali is Mombasa (member of Revolutionary United Front), and Topher Grace (a geeky doctor). 

Royce takes charge of this decidedly deadly bunch with surprisingly little resistance and quickly works out why they're there and why they were chosen.  One may ask why a geeky doctor is among the group.  You'll see (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  Anyway, there's a lot of running and shooting (these folks are very well-armed) and it's all very exciting.  Eventually they're rescued by Noland, an insane ex-soldier hammily played by Laurence Fishbourne, who's survived previous hunts and has holed up in some kind of abandoned refinery.  Once the predators find them, it's a mad dash to the end of the film.  In case you haven't noticed, I don't like giving away too much in my reviews.

What surprised me the most about Predators was Adrian Brody.  I always thought of him as kind of a wuss, but here...holy crap.  He's bulked and buff and speaks in a voice that's part Dirty Harry, part James Bond.  I was also surprised at the number of nods toward the first movie.  Nikolai totes a mini-gun just like Blain (Jesse Ventura) did.  Hanzo remains behind to battle a predator in hand to hand combat with a sword, as Billy (Sonny Landham) did with a knife.  Sadly, though, the sequel lacked the memorable one-liners of its predecessor.  You remember:  "You are one ugly mother-f**ker" and, of course, "I ain't got time to bleed." 


Acting:  Very good.  Brody continues to prove he's worthy of his Oscar. 
Story:  Pretty clever, I thought.  Mostly cliche-free and even better, I had no idea how it would end.  Direction:  The best word is "crisp."  Antal knows how to keep things tense and fast. 
Production Values:  About what you'd expect with this franchise and this cast...astronomical. 
Gore:  Surprisingly little.  Definitely less than the original.  There is one good scene where a guy gets his spine ripped out with skull still attached, but that's about it. 
Ending:  Unexpected but nearly perfect.  Sorry, there's no nuclear self-detonations.
Verdict:  So should you see it?  Yep.  I found very little to dislike about Predators. thing bugged me.  At one point, Isabelle tells the "classified" backstory of the first film and mentions that Dutch (Schwarzenegger) survived by concealing his heat signature with mud.  You would think they would have remembered this little tidbit when running for their lives...

My Rating:  4 out of 5

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