Adrien Brody’s ‘Predators’ Unmemorably Lulls Through the Expected Motions

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CHICAGO – Good films deliver on their promise. Great films up the ante even more. In this version of the long “Predators” franchise from director Nimrod Antal (“Control,” “Armored,” “Vacancy”) and more-known producer Robert Rodriguez (“Grindhouse,” “Sin City”), we merely see more of the same: just enough to get us by but not nearly enough to make us care.

The curiously cast film stars the I’m-trying-to-be-badass Brody as he attempts to fill the more authentic shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1987’s “Predator”.

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in Predators
Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga) take aim during their desperate battle against the alien predators.
Image credit: Rico Torres

The battle-hardened and mercenary-turned Brody is self-elected as the team leader of the humans as they wage war against alien predators out of necessity. While the humans are fighting for their lives, the predators are simply butchering for sport. The aliens merely want to improve their abilities as the harbringers of death and they use humans as their guinea pigs.

The film’s most effective storytelling element blows its wad early on. Brody and the other trained killers are parachuted onto an alien planet in a state of frenzy and confusion. Though it’s not the first time this franchise has dangled such a plot carrot as a way to successfully build suspense (think Vietnam confusion in an earlier film), the payoff isn’t sustained throughout the story.

Once the big reveal is blown courtesy of a relative cameo by Laurence Fishburne, the rest of the story delivers exactly what you’ve seen before and nothing more. While the film isn’t en epic fail that does deliver on expectations at a rudimentary level, these filmmakers missed their opportunity to make daring decisions. Especially by the time you’ve made so many films in the same franchise, you’d better be blowing us out of the water with at least something brand-spanking new.

Laurence Fishburne in Predators
Laurence Fishburne stars as Noland: a veteran of the human/predator wars.
Image credit: Rico Torres

Now there were two kinds of predators in this version. One kind even took another kind prisoner. Now that’s interesting. But while there was a mysterious and intriguing internal war brewing between these two predator classes, the subplot wasn’t taken far enough. When we finally witness a lethal brouhaha between two predators, we’re left feeling: “That’s it?”

Adrien Brody in Predators
Battle-hardened mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) squares off against his deadliest enemy ever: an alien predator.
Image credit: Rico Torres

When the biggest “oh damn!” moment in the film comes with a half-naked, mud-covered Brody (as pictured on right) because you barely believe that’s really his body, you know something’s wrong. And while Brody is joined by a culturally diverse and equal-opportunity cast of other murderous misfits, it takes -2.39 seconds to figure out that Topher Grace (of “That ‘70s Show” fame) is the bigass sore thumb to stand out.

In a film that literally has no memorable dialogue, there’s even a line by Brody that insults your intelligence as an audience member. In character, Brody is caught sharing the same revelation with his cohorts that Grace’s character quite clearly doesn’t fit in with the rest of these slaughterers. It was as if Brody momentarily transformed into one of the film’s writers as he was constructing a plot climax for later.

While Grace attempts to wow you with a climatic “I’m really as crazy as everyone else here even though you only thought I was a mild-mannered doctor who can’t wield a handgun,” the moment instead produces the film’s single piece of unintentional comedy. It’s not that his “odd man in the crowd” role wasn’t appreciated; it’s just that Topher Grace shouldn’t have played it.

Now Alice Braga’s role had potential. You get the sense that Robert Rodriguez wanted her character to be more like his traditionally cast female roles. Nonetheless, he wasn’t allowed to make her as fanatically outlandish as he would have liked. For a woman in a Rodriguez film who had the potential to more memorably explode off the screen, Quentin Tarantino would not be proud.

Topher Grace in Predators
Mild-mannered physician Edwin (Topher Grace) navigates the myriad dangers of the hunting ground on an alien planet.
Image credit: Rico Torres

While it’s formulaic as a critic to write that this film is the epitome of a predictably formulaic action film, so can you deduce which human characters will survive as easily as you can guess which ones will be butchered off. Due to the lack of story development and emotional connection created with any particular character, we’re left feeling indifferent about which humans survive and which ones chomp on death.

Still, as Brody’s gang is picked apart one person at a time just like in the other “Predator” films, Mexican slayer Danny Trejo stands with his back to us as the film’s best moment of suspense.

His murmured “help me!” even following a pity execution by Braga is one of the film’s few compelling displays of alien technology. Other than that and an example by the predators to track human footprints via heat signatures, the film shockingly neglects to advance the alien’s advancement.

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But considering these aliens just live to parachute humans into their game preserve for killing seasons because they’re advancing themselves in the off-seasons, you’re left thinking that the predators instead play canasta, cuddle with one another and hop through open fields like bunny rabbits because they sure haven’t evolved to today’s modern expectations.

“Predators” stars Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Alice Braga, Walter Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Carey Jones, Brian Steele and Derek Mears from director Nimrod Antal, producers Robert Rodriguez and Alex Young and writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch with characters by Jim Thomas and John Thomas. The film, which was released nationwide on July 9, 2010, is rated “R” with a running time of 106 minutes.

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief and publisher Adam Fendelman

By ADAM FENDELMAN
Editor-in-Chief/Publisher
HollywoodChicago.com
adam@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

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