Renn: While it’s only been three years since we last saw a
Predator on screen, it’s been 20 since they last stood alone in their
own film. Their reputation has been unfortunately tarnished from the
nearly unwatchable attempts to merge them with the Alien series, to the
point that it was a question if there was any neon-green blood left
pumping in the franchise’s veins. The even bigger question has been if
Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal, who came to Hollywood’s attention
with Control and has since directed the light genre films Vacancy and
Armored, is the right team to bring the dreadlocked beasts back to the
big screen.

Well I can say that, while they don’t unequivocally
knock it out of the park, they’ve managed to strip the film down to
basics and provide an adrenaline-fueled action film that has more than
enough dismemberments, explosions, and f-bombs, with ample artillery,
sweat, and masculine posturing to be a memorable night out during a
truly drab summer.

The film begins with the ultra-cold opening of a
military-suited Adrien Brody awaking in complete free fall. As he
plummets towards a foreign jungle, he struggles with a chute that just
won’t open, until it is suddenly triggered by an alien-looking device on
his chest at the last possible moment. It isn’t long before he’s
grouped up with a whole herd of hardened bastards that have also
inexplicably dropped from the sky, including a San Quentin Death Row
prisoner (Walton Goggins),  a Mexican cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo), a
member of the Sierre Leone RUF rebel army (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and a
Russian special forces or “Spetsnaz” soldier (Oleg Taktarov). Toss in a
scrawny, out of place American doctor (Topher Grace), a Samurai-trained
Yakuza (Louis Ozaqa Changchien), and a beautiful IDF sniper (Alicia
Braga), and you’ve got a team diverse enough to bring a boatload of
interesting weapons and accents, with plenty of characters to
periodically whack during the action sequences. As the group trudges
through the strange and diverse world around them, it becomes evident
that something out there is watching them, and that the tables have
turned on this group of seasoned killers.     

Nick and I have taken a trip
through a strange jungle with the team Antal assembled to face the
ultimate alien hunters and here we are to tell you what we thought.

Nick: Please don’t call Alica Braga beautiful. It hurts my feelings.

Predators
is the ultimate fan flick, except it’s been made by pros. The concept
is threadbare, extremely so for a major motion picture. The idea is that
of a child’s with a handful of toys thinking of the quickest way to get
down to business. It’s even more raw and basic than the plot of the
first Predator. Tough guys sent to an alien world to be hunted by the
fan favorite monster. Without a one stop shop like Robert Rodriguez
pulling the strings something like this could never get past the focus
group studio mentality of today.



It’s like the Sci Fi Channel got monetized and theatrical all of a
sudden, and I mean that in a good way.


Predators is a fun movie,
violent and familiar without feeling too opportunistic. The Alien and
Predator movies have fallen down enough by this point so that the
expectations are low enough for something like this to have a reason for
being. It’s the right kind of movie for now, and between this and the
fun The Expendables it’s like we’ve been given a first class ticket to
mid 80’s action glory.


Renn: I think the child’s toy metaphor is actually pretty fucking
perfect. You could have tossed a G.I. Joe and a Power Ranger on this
team and they wouldn’t have been too wildly out of place. Some random
spiked dinosaur toy becomes a Predator hound, the Morpheus doll becomes
the old pro Predator-hunter –it all works. We didn’t stay after the
credits- perhaps it ultimately ends with a child being called to dinner
and dropping his action figures to the ground, with a dramatic zoom-in
on Adrien Brody’s plastic face.


I’ll also agree that the simplicity and lowered
expectations serve the film well. There’s nothing that could really be
considered “big ambition” on display here, and that’s almost a relief
when compared to the silly impulse to integrate these characters into
the very fabric of human civilization, as Aliens Vs. Predators tried.
That said, it’s also a bit of disappointment to realize that the story
has no interesting tricks up its sleeve at all, and you may as well be
riding in a cart on rails (especially in the third act). Nearly every
moment and character play out exactly how you would expect them to. Even
this I could ignore if the action was INCREDIBLE, but it’s merely
decent. However, I’ll take well shot, decent action with some legitimate
viscera over another bland, PG-13 bore any day, and (like Nick
mentioned) as a lead up to The Expendables it works. I find myself
struggling to remember any unique fist-pumping moments even a day out
though, so I feel like this one will slide out of the collective memory
pretty fast.

Nick: There aren’t any fist pumping moments. Though there are some nice
kills there’s never a feeling of that gusto that allowed Gary Busey to
be hewn in half amongst beef slabs or the slow motion ballet Carl
Weather’s severed triggering from the earlier films. There are moments
where people are shuffled off the realm in an explosion of (seemingly)
digital grue and plenty of bullet, laser, blade, or claw-induced trauma
but there’s nothing that screams that this film has any new tricks. It
has the best practical effects team out there (anyone who doesn’t love
Greg Nicotero is a fool), but it is hardly cutting edge in originality
or execution.



But it’s a lot better than I expected. I don’t have much faith in
Robert Rodriguez as a creative visionary. I am dazzled by his ability to
pool resources and build a mini-studio from scratch, but when it comes
to preserving or resurrecting a franchise I happen to like he’s not high
on the list.



Luckily, aside from the massive Troublemaker Studios logo, the
presence of Danny Trejo and the abundance of low cost effects that are
often good enough (except for that fire one, and don’t tell me it’s the
slightly different atmosphere of this alien world that made it look
shitty) it doesn’t feel like a Rodriguez movie. It feels like a fun
diversion from the big, BIG, BIGGER summer movies we’re used to. It’s
the right kind of underdog. Old school and worthy of a couple of hours
of mindless entertainment.



That said, don’t expect much new here. The cast of characters is
portrayed well for the most part by people who work in their roles but
though they talk the tough talk, they don’t embody what I’d consider
Earth’s most shining examples of soldiers. More often than not they are
just pouring thousands of bullets into the scenery and wasting precious
ammo on absolutely nothing. Even though there was plenty of shells
wasted in the original film there was always the belief that this team
of guys was worthy. Plus, it showcased how overmatched  they were. Not
here. This group looks and sounds right but comes off quite hollow aside
from Adrien Brody.



And I fear the look that must have crossed Walton Goggins’ face when
he read that he had to deliver a horrible mini-speech about wanting to
get home so he can rape some women. I may be off my rocker, but I don’t
think a hardened criminal’s going to say that.


Renn: Oh that fucking speech.


It’s a shame Laurence
Fishburne is around so briefly, even though he shines so bright during
his brief screen time. The ah… ‘shtick’ of his character may not have
been sustainable for an entire film, but he could have stuck around a
bit longer. Adrien was certainly more convincing as a tough guy than one
would have expected, but honestly even he couldn’t conquer the painful
silliness of the script at times- the “Fuck you” “No, fuck you!” type
scenes (there are several) just come across as laughable machismo. The
chemistry for the group overall is not as flat as I would have cynically
assumed, though again, there’s nothing that will stand out about it
either. 

What I did ultimately appreciate about this film
(and another thing it has in common with The Expendables) is that while
still smeared with plenty of CGI effects, compositing, and correction,
it felt like a genuinely tactile experience. There were few, if any,
glaringly CGI stuntmen that pulled me out of the action or suddenly made
a fight feel weightless. The Predators felt like Dudes In Suits, even
if they came out of their invisibility shields in a flashier, modern
way. It’s sad that is enough to get an extra star these days, but I’m so
tired of the pixel-enhanced action that has saturated movies that the
breath of fresh air is really worth something. In that way I feel like
the filmmakers understood what was necessary to revitalize this
franchise, even if they didn’t have any new passionate angle from which
to approach it. 

While this isn’t another case like Star Trek or
Batman Begins where an origin story has been retold and brought into a
modern context, it is a reboot in the sense that it strips much of the
baggage from these monsters, and sets a clean stage for the franchise.
If Predators does well (and I see no specific reason why it won’t do
respectable numbers) then perhaps we can rely on a decent throwback
action film every once in a while. There’s even the outside chance
someone will get to bring something interesting to the table, now that
the series has a chance at having legs again. 

Nick: If by legs you mean it’s going to get trashed and thrashed at the
box office, it is Bruce Jenner. But it’s actually Stephen Hawking.

I
want it to do well. I’d be totally up for a new Troublemaker Predator
movie every two or three years, especially if they can get good
filmmakers like Nimrod to participate. But I can’t see this one pulling
its way out. Though the non-Predator creatures here don’t do much for
furthering the mythology (including what looked like a Leper
Pumpkinhead), I love the idea of different species being thrown into the
combat mix. 20th Century Fox has established a world where Aliens and
Predators and Space Jockeys and Spiky Useless Predator Hounds can exist
as well as one where Adrien Brody is an action hero, it’d be interesting
to see what other denizens of the reaches two-thirds of KNB Effects can
come up with.


But as it stands this new Predator movie is fun, delightfully retro,
and exceptionally flawed and I am perfectly fine with that.


7.5
out of 10


Renn: While it’s not a film with any huge missteps (well, maybe Topher Grace,
but I seem to be in the minority on that) Predators never builds up
enough momentum to leave you with much excitement coming out of the
theater. You may remark to your buddy that it was better than you
expected, but it’s not going to make you forget to check all those text
messages you missed. It will be a shame if this is a one-off Predator
movie though, because if this
film does anything right it’s proving that there’s still meat on them
bones.

6.0 out of 10