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Theatrical Review: Predators

When you see the logo for Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios, you can pretty much bet that if you enjoy genre entertainment, you’re in for a good time.

Producer Robert Rodriguez was pretty much given carte blanche from 20th Century Fox to do something with the Predator franchise. And I think that he and director Nimrod Antal have got something pretty cool here.

Predators starts with our main character, an American mercenary, plummeting from the sky to the ground below. He’s just wakened up and realizes that he has some sort of parachute around him, but he can’t activate it. It activates on it’s own at the last moment and this mercenary lands in the midst of a steaming jungle. One after another, others also land. All of them are warriors from other cultures with one seeming exception, a doctor. They all form a reluctant truce to try and find who tossed them out of an airplane. Well, soon our little band of warriors find that they’re no longer on Earth and they’ve been brought to an interplanetary game reserve. They realize that they’re the game and they’re being hunted by the most fierce hunters in the galaxy, the Predators.

What follows is a pretty cool cat and mouse chase story with this fierce band of prey trying to outwit and escape from the Predators. Oh, there’s really nothing new here, though a new twist is thrown in with the Predator race, but that doesn’t really matter. If you’re familiar with the other Predator movies, you pretty much know what you’re going to get, and that’s some slick and brutal science fiction action.

Predators delivers on that count for sure. While this isn’t anything overly complex in how it’s set up, director Antal manages to have his action unfold logically and for the first half hour of the film, really builds up a nice sense of dread. Our characters are all of the two-dimensional variety, but again, with this series, that’s not really a detriment. And there are some nice bits thrown in along the way, though you really won’t find yourself necessarily identifying with any of these folks, other than just through their desire for survival.

It all really looks good, and in some scenes, I almost get the feeling that Antal and Rodriguez are channeling the art of Frank Frazetta in some places. The visual effects are really nice and of course, with a movie like this, the main standout is more in make-up effects. When you have the best in the business, KNB EFX Group, handling that, you know you’re in good hands.

Another huge plus for the movie is it’s musical score by John Debney which is basically repurposing Alan Silvestri’s scores from the first two Predator movies. With this series, it’d be wrong to do anything any different.

Now as I said, the characters are all two-dimensional (again not a bad thing) but still you want a cast that can give it all some credibility and fortunately, they have a good cast here with a couple of surprises for me anyway.

Adrien Brody leads the cast as our American mercenary (and yeah, he does have a name, but it’s left unrevealed until the end of the film- the name itself isn’t really a big deal, but it’s revelation is something of a turnaround point for this character, so I’m not going to reveal it). Now I’d never expect to see Brody head up this sort of action film, but I have to say, he’s really got the chops to do it. His character seems the most hardened out of the entire cast, so much so that he’s the most ready to sacrifice everyone else for his own survival. As far as I’m concerned, he’s had a pretty good year this year with genre entertainment with both this movie and earlier this summer with Splice. He’s an intense character, not a lot of joy in this man, but you definitely get the feeling that he’s having a good time doing this sort of part.

He’s backed up with a solid supporting cast that includes Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne comes into the movie a little later as previous bit of prey who’s managed to survive in this environment for quite a long time, and as such, he’s a little off his nut. It’s still good work from him though, and again, he’s just the right sort of guy to give this some credibility. the real surprises for me though were Alice Braga and Topher Grace. I’ve not necessarily been a fan of either previously. The last thing that I saw Braga in, Repo Men, she was quite the drag in that film. But here though, she holds her own well with this group of hardened guys, being both tough and having a little maternal quality to her. Topher Grace was really unexpected. He plays the doctor amongst this crew. I really don’t want to reveal anything further about his character, but I’ll just say that for me, this might be the best thing that I’ve ever seen him do, so take from that what you will.

And of course, this wouldn’t be a Robert Rodriguez film if Danny Trejo wasn’t in it in some way or another. Trejo’s here and doing just what we want him doing, playing the badass. Even better though, is that running with Predators we get the trailer for the next Rodriguez movie, which will be Trejo’s starring vehicle, Machete which we first saw with Quentin Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse and is already looking like it might be some of the most fun on the big screen this year, but I digress…

Predators is just a whole lot of B-movie fun and it really helps to put this franchise back on the map again. I’m not going to denigrate the Aliens Vs. Predators movies (I actually really enjoy them), but it’s nice to see them back in their own movie. You’ve got a rock solid cast here, a great look, terrific visual and make-up effects, and the music that you want to hear with this franchise. By all means, see this one.