"Does this look like a team-oriented group of individuals to you?"
By the time Adrien Brody falls from the sky, pops his parachute, and lands with a disorientated thud on the jungle floor, I just can't help but think we've been down this road before. The foliage is foreign, the cast is different, and the grimaced visages of the collective killers are adequately menaced, but don't we deserve better?
The Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) produced and Nimród Antal (VACANCY) directed PREDATORS takes place on a distant world (we know this from the multiple celestial beings in the sky), where humans and other extra-terrestrials are captured and left as game. There, they have to battle poisonous plants, horned dogs and of course, our favourite squid-faced aliens.
The players this time around are reluctantly led by Royce (Brody), a mercenary who prefers to eliminate alone. I'm a great fan of Brody's, I just don't feel he has the look, or pedigree for a straight-laced action role that Royce requires. In times of turmoil, close-up shots of Brody's face while he gruffly spits out generic one-liners that end scenes, never sat right with me. He's far more effective in lighter roles, or at least ones where he can flex his acting chops, and not simply his biceps.
Royce is joined by supposed scientist Edwin (Topher Grace), Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), and sharp-shooter Isabelle (Alice Braga) among others. Names here are wholly trivial; if you can carry a gun and murder appropriately, you fit the bill. Isabelle, however, is important, having been familiarized with the Predators after reading a manifest from the sole survivor of a mission gone wrong in Guatemala from 1987 (a nod to the original Predator film). She explains to the group how covering oneself in mud can disrupt the Predators heat vision--a useful tip, yet they simply choose to fire aimlessly at the cloaked beasts and eventually run around like chickens with their heads removed. None of the characters are properly illustrated--perhaps not totally required, but when the team of writers do allow for some intermittent dialogue, the best they can offer is convict Stans' (Walter Goggin) hopeful admission of "raping bitches" when he gets off the planet.
After a few familiar, gruesome deaths, they meet Noland (Laurence Fishburne) a stranded air-assault pilot that has survived many 'seasons' of human hunting. Noland makes it sound his game of hide-and-seek has gone on for years, yet at the end of the film another crop of would be wall mounts are seen floating down, mere days after the last--making Noland's claim of heroism slightly less formidable. He himself could have been an interesting character. Fishburne has talent, but it's thrown away into a character who is cunning enough to kill his captors and steal their technology, but then equally foolish to walk into his impending doom.
The action is first-rate, as are the costumes--the same designs by the late, great Stan Winston. It's all just a little too cut and dried for its own good. The "heroes" are introduced, they come together, they fight, they kill, some die, until the inevitable confrontation between human and creature. The reason for the first PREDATOR's success was the muted anticipation brought about from the uncertainty of what was out there. After the reveal, it was impossible to recreate that tension, and every sequel henceforth is doomed to flounder because of it. PREDATORS offers commendable spirit; its heart is in the right place. But, we've seen it all before, and frankly, it's been better.