Friday, July 09, 2010


"Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter."—Ernest Hemingway (from "On the Blue Water" in Esquire, April 1936)

Predators (2010), producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal have lifted the central premise of The Naked Prey (1966) and dropped it freefall onto a foreign planet spinning violently in—yes, indeed—a predatorial universe. But Planet Terror this ain't even though, admittedly, that's what I was hoping for. Irregardless, as far as the Predator franchise goes, it's a helluva lot more faithful to the original storyline than the double fumble of AVP and AVP: Requiem. One could say Predators has put the dread back into the dreadlocks of one of my favorite cancroid creatures.

Twitch teammates James Marsh and Jim Tudor have already weighed in with competent synopses of the plot so there's no need for me to repeat their efforts other than to point to Wikipedia where plot, casting, development, marketing and reception have been methodically tracked. I am touched, however, by the nostalgic commentary to James Marsh's entry where a yearning has been expressed for the fun action and B-movie vibe of the original, which pleased audiences with its visceral gut punch. Predators has testosterone-fueled action as well; but, it feels relentlessly crafted and self-conscious. The dialogue is clunky with an almost formulaic Q&A vibe of one-sentence questions and one-sentence answers posed again and again and again to simulate, I presume, a bad-ass aesthetic. Bad-ass is the name of the game here with an ensemble made up of an American ex-military soldier turned mercenary, an Israeli Defence Force black ops sniper, a Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel enforcer, a former Sierra Leone RUF death squad officer, a Russian VDV commando during the Second Chechen War, a notorious and deadly death-row inmate from San Quentin state prison, a Yakuza assassin, and a seemingly-normal physician who is, secretly, a serial killer. The film's title purposely flirts with this hierarchy of predation, essential to fight or flight scenarios; but, has left out possibly the worst predator of all: a studio exec banking on a franchise reboot and sequel.

Recently interviewed by Elvis Mitchell on TCM's Under the Influence, Quentin Tarantino complained that one of the main failures of contemporary genre films is that "they have sophisticated the pleasure out of the genre." It's a razor's edge. Do you imitate? Do you simulate? Do you ironize? How do you get just the right feel? The plot shift in the original was a narrative switchback that worked wonders and probably can never be replicated.

Jim Tudor's complaint lies in the casting. He criticizes that Adrien Brody lacks saliency as an action hero. I likewise felt Brody was channeling Christian Bale's phrasing a bit too obviously and I'm not a big fan of his blasé eyebrows which tend to tilt his performances towards irony; but, otherwise, he sufficed. I was delighted by Alice Braga. I've been following her career since she popped out in the Brazilian features City of God and Lower City and have been pleased that she's been showing up in these big budget blockbusters. She exhibits a perfect meld of toughness and vulnerability. I've already told her that she could probably turn me straight. Topher Grace provided some key humor early on though his character devolved into cliché by film's end. Walton Goggins—who's delivered one of the best TV performances of this past year on FX's Justified—follows through with an equally charismatic turn in Predators; I look forward to seeing more of him in years to come. As has been said, Danny Trejo's face is a national treasure. And the least said about Laurence Fishburne, the better.

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