Saturday, July 10, 2010
"There is no hunting like the hunting of man..." - Predators
Adrien Brody, as a survive-at-all-costs mercenary mysteriously dropped on an alien planet with other militant characters chosen to serve as game for Predators, supplies backbone to Predators, a rather standard aliens versus humans science-fiction full of gore – which is de rigueur for movies about Predators who just love hunting humans and ripping their spinal columns out of their backs as trophies. Not as silly and out of place as he was in his role in Splice, Brody plays a convincingly tough, self-centered survivor. His eyes hold a hardness I haven't seen before, and he gets to quote Hemingway, that shtick we've heard before, "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter."
But much too much time is spent establishing the motley crew of characters and the direness of their situation before the action starts. Proof of a whole new side to alien abduction, the humans are one minute engaged in some sort of violence on Earth, the next minute plummeting to the surface of an alien world. Royce (Adrien Brody), some sort of black-ops honcho immediately clicks into survival mode. “We have to find the high ground.” Alice Braga plays Isabella, a touch, macha sniper who sees the value of sticking together.
The rest of the big men with big guns, or big cojones, or both, include Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), a Russian from the killing fields of Chechnya; Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, Stans (Walton Goggins), a murderer from death row; Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a guerrilla fighter from Sierra Leone, and Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a Yakuza hit man, armed with a puny .45 until he finds an old samurai sword and engages in the film’s best scene – a blade-against-blade duel with a Predator in a field of tall grass – a thrilling tribute to the samurai movie genre. Laurence Fishburne is fun as a lone survivalist who forts up in a wrecked spacecraft and scavenges the leavings of previous quarry. Odd man out in the group is Edwin, a mild-mannered doctor, played by Topher Grace, who provides comic relief. He seems to be a strange choice for the Predators’ game preserve until his knowledge of neurotoxin-exuding plants suggests that he’s hiding a dark secret.
Once the Predators send in the hunting “hounds” – ugly little buggers bristling with horns – and the characters we’ve finally straightened out in our minds start dying off, the pace picks up and there are thrills to be had. Additional tension is provided by the fact that the Predators have also landed cages that must have held creatures from other planets. The film establishes a hot and sticky atmosphere employing Hawaiian jungle locations, and it is earnest about its presentation of the “classic” Predators of previous films – those clever heavily-armed, camouflaged alien samurai who are ugly as sin and love to hunt and do battle. Just too bad for me that I’m not that impressed by Predators as formidable foe though I really enjoyed their interaction with the brave human expedition guide (Alexa Woods) in AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004). Here, the eerie music reminds us of that fun, much more action-packed, expeditiously edited film, and some of its notes echo Alien. Thus my disappointment when it turns out that one of those cages has not introduced a good old slime-oozing, acid-bleeding, pointy-tailed Alien into the mix. Now, that’s what this film needed to punch it up a much-needed half dozen notches or so. Predators don’t quite cut it for me, but Aliens… now that’s what I call entertainment!