Bored, Mek and I decided to rent a movie from On Demand last night. The film we chose? Predators, the infamous not-remake from 2010.
It was pretty fun . . . but jeez, was it predictable.
Basic Plot Synopsis:
A bunch of badasses from all different cultures and ethnicities are mysteriously transported from our planet to a game preserve planet where they are to be hunted by none other than . . . the Predators!!! Eeep!!!
1. Unlike what every person and their dog told me last year when this film came out, Predators isn’t a remake. It’s actually just a sequel—apparently, a sequel completely ignoring the events of AVP—but, a sequel nonetheless. Which means that a lot of people got themselves worked up over nothing. Adrien Brody isn’t reprising Arnie’s role, so hush, fellow geeks. Calm yourselves.
2. About Brody, however—I do kind of think he’s the weak link of this cast.
In all fairness to Brody, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s all his fault. His character, Royce, is that cynical, mercenary type, the “I’m-not-a-good-guy” good guy . . . which, frankly, has not only been done a thousand times but has been done better a thousand times. Royce has virtually no character whatsoever—almost no one does, really—but since he’s clearly the lead of the show, he has to sell his non-character a lot more than, say, the Japanese guy who barely talks and likes to walk around with bare feet.
Brody makes the attempt—he’s certainly bulked up for the role, and he affects a super deep, vaguely Bale-Batman voice that’s only distracting half of the time—but he just doesn’t have the natural charisma to play a one-note lead badass. I’m glad they didn’t cast anyone like The Rock or John Cena or something, but I’m confident that another actor—maybe someone like Josh Brolin, who was supposedly in the running—could have done more with the role than Brody did. (In a side note, I know nominate Brolin a lot, and there are other actors out there with talent . . . but I can’t help it. I have faith in the man. Maybe Daniel Craig would have been nice too. Ooh, or Callum Keith Rennie. As a non-villain, even. That would have been something to see.)
3.) On the other hand, the Badass Chick of the group is played competently enough by Alice Braga. I didn’t love her character—you know, she has all those girly “feelings” and of course they play out the tired sexual tension between her and Adrien Brody—but Braga didn’t go too self-righteous in the delivery, and I’m sure that a lot of lesser actresses would have. She’s not making my list of Most Amazing Female Badasses or anything, but she is also far, far from the bottom of the pack.
4.) My main motivation for wanting to see Predators, actually, was an actor named Walton Goggins. Walton Goggins, in my opinion, has possibly the most unfortunate name in existence, but he is made up of epic win, and I just adore him on Justified. Seriously, he’s freaking amazing as Boyd on Justified. That whole show is amazing. Go watch Justified! FX at 10pm on Wednesdays!
Ahem. Anyway, Goggins manages to make his rapist-and-murderer-on-death-row character into one of the main comic reliefs. That takes some talent. The other main comic relief is probably Topher Grace, who I enjoy in this as well. I would watch more Topher Grace stuff if he would stop doing bad looking rom-coms and superhero sequels.
5.) Of course, the best character ever doesn’t go to any of these people. It goes to Lawrence “Crazytown” Fishbourne, who’s awesome and hilarious and reminds me that he could have been so much better on CSI. Anyway, Morpheus this guy is not. I completely love him and his utter insanity in this role.
6.) The opening scene of Predators is awesome as it literally drops you into the action. In fact, all of the action scenes are a lot of fun, and the movie goes by quickly and is pretty enjoyable, especially with some funny dialogue like this little exchange between Convict (Goggins), Doc (Grace), and Russian (Oleg Taktarov). *No, these are not their real character names. The guys almost never reveal their names during the film, so I choose to use my own.
Convict: You know, man, if we ever make it home, I’m going to do so much fucking cocaine . . . I’m gonna rape so many fine bitches. I’ll be like, “What time is it? After 5:00? Damn. Time to go rape me some fine bitches. You know what I’m saying?
Doc (uncomfortably): Oh, yeah. Totally. Like; 5:00, it’s bitch-raping time.
Convict: Mmm. Yeah.
(Doc quickly moves to sit by Russian.)
Russian: You should stay away from him.
Like the best dialogue, it’s all in the delivery.
7. Of course, not all of the dialogue can be perfect. I could easily do without Badass Chick constantly questioning Brody’s (figurative) humanity, while Brody does his whole, “I’m not a team player; hugging is for losers; I’m going to survive because I’m badass Adrian Brody” bit. And, naturally, someone has to mention a storm. Yes, girls and boys. This is yet another film where there is, in fact, a storm coming. I’m pretty sure that’s a montage somewhere on youtube.
8. The real problem (which I’ll discuss in greater detail in the Spoiler Section) is the predictability of this film. In a sense, of course, movies like these are always kind of predictable, but—look, I came close to guessing the order of every single character’s death. I only mixed up two characters, and I knew the second I had made a mistake once said character started bragging like mad, his/her back exposed while everyone else stared at him/her from an easy four feet away. And even then, the two characters whose deaths I guessed out of order? They died within maybe five minutes of each other anyway. Everything plays out exactly how you expect it to, and maybe it was because I was already irritated by a similar problem I’m having with The Mentalist (which I watched just before this) but there’s no reason this movie couldn’t have taken even the slightest chance by doing something that the audience wouldn’t expect. But there really wasn’t a single thing that could have been considered even remotely risky. I enjoyed this movie a lot . . . up until the last twenty minutes, which were a letdown for a couple of reasons but mostly because they were so damn obvious.
Maybe my expectations were a little high, but I wanted something more at the end of all this. It’s a solid enough action film . . . but, dammit, people. Do something new with your films. Please?
And the rest, as they say, is spoilers.
Okay, so first the Mexican gets it (and Danny Trejo says, “Paycheck, bitches!) and then the black guy gets it, and then the Russian guy with the cute picture of his kids. (I guessed him a long time before he sealed his own coffin with the look-at-my-wonderful-family routine. Ugh, Russian. Don’t you know anything?) I agonized for several seconds before incorrectly guessing that the Yakuza would die next. Actually, it’s Convict. Poor Walton Goggins gets his spine ripped out of his body. Skull included.
Yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien) dies a few minutes later when he senses a predator behind them and decides to hang back and fight him samurai style. The fight’s kind of cool, and I don’t really object to them killing each other, but . . . it all just seems so weirdly out of place, like someone thought, “Hey! Cool scene idea!” and didn’t bother to transition it. You know, the dude’s Asian. It’ll be all inscrutable. No need for it to make sense or anything.
So, that leaves us with the most predictable trio of all predictable trios: Brody, Grace, and Badass Chick. In fact, Mek and I paused the movie maybe forty minutes earlier to discuss such a possibility, saying wouldn’t it be nice if just once the big time hero bit it halfway into the film and the Russian guy lived just because he was kind of nice? You know, because no one was surprised when the Russian guy died because . . . . well, because he was Russian. Same with the Mexican and the dude from Sierra Leone. Sure, the convict’s American and he didn’t make it . . . but you can’t exactly have the rapist/murderer live in a happy ending, now can you? And, okay, the Badass Chick isn’t American . . . but then again, she’s a chick. The vagina wins out over nationality. (Also, would it have really stretched anyone’s imagination to have two badass women in the group? I wouldn’t shock anyone by hoping for half of the group be of the female gender.)
Anyway, okay. So, Brody’s around because he’s the badass American; Chick’s around because she’s a woman, and Grace is around because we haven’t explained his mystery yet. (Unlike all of the other soldier/mercenary/killer types in this group, Doc is just a doctor with no particular special skills and has relied on everyone else to save his ass thus far.) Unfortunately for Doc, Brody’s not the savior type. When Doc gets injured, Brody wants to leave him behind as bait, an unconscionable move that Chick cannot get down with. Brody is even unmoved by the picture of Doc’s children and leaves them to go find his alien spaceship to freedom alone.
This is a nice moment because the audience has seen this picture of Doc’s kids before . . . back when, yes, the Russian was holding it. Turns out, Doc isn’t a father or a nice guy at all—he’s actually a sociopathic serial killer who can’t be trusted. What’s nice about this is that the scene’s underplayed—there’s no dramatic music as he whips out the picture, no super zoom in to Topher Grace’s evil and devious face. It’s not so much a twist as a nice reveal, since anyone with the smallest bit of brainpower should know that Grace is probably not just some mild-mannered guy dropped in with all of these other human “predators” for no reason at all. I like how this particular reveal is done.
Of course, it’s then promptly ruined when Doc paralyzes Badass Chick and starts evil monologuing some exposition at us that we don’t really need and doesn’t make much sense anyway. Like, Doc has decided that he belongs here because he’s a predator too, and he’s not a freak here like he was on Earth, or something? I don’t exactly mind the idea, but it comes kind out of left field, and it doesn’t really track with the behavior Doc’s exhibited so far. All movie, he’s been using everyone to stay alive and get off the planet—now he’s just given that up because he’s found his one true home? It’s kind of lame.
It seems pretty dire for Chick . . . after all, Brody has seemingly escaped on the alien spaceship with another predator’s help (there’s this whole predator war subplot I can’t even care enough about to bitch at right now) and oh nos! Brody’s ship has exploded in space! Is our badass hero really dead? I’ll admit, for about half a second I entertained the notion that he was . . . wouldn’t that be exciting, if Brody’s smart-if-totally-selfish plan actually got him killed, and the girl had to save her own life and find her way off the planet by herself; wouldn’t that at least be something new . . . and then reality set in, and I was like, “Fuck, he never even stepped on the ship, did he?”
And, of course, Brody didn’t. He gets the drop on Doc (admittedly, this was kind of cool . . . Doc’s doing the “You’re a nice guy after all” bit, and Brody says, “No, I’m not . . . but I’m fast,” as he stabs Doc in the chin.) Still. Of course, Brody and Chick kill the Big Bad Predator Dude and they limp away to come up with a new plan to get off the planet, surely stealing in some significant glances and possibly some badass smooching along the way.
And it’s all okay, of course, but like I said, it’s just . . . so . . . done.
Not every action movie needs to take chances, but for some reason, I really wanted this one too.
Tentative Grade: B/B-
Moral: Don’t kill people. Apparently, that attracts unwanted, alien attention. If you can’t avoid killing people, at least make sure that you’re leading man material, preferably with a gruff layer of cynicism to cover up the broken, once-patriotic inner child that surely lies somewhere deep within. Or, just be a woman.