When presented with the adrenaline-fueled opening sequence of Predators that finds Oscar winning Pianist star Adrien Brody hurtling through the air desperately trying to open his parachute before crash-landing on an unknown planet against his will, some viewers cried foul and others cited Deux ex machina.
However, I welcomed the excitingly unexpected jolt of sheer suspense with open arms and extremely eager eyes and in fact, restarted the movie a second time, sure that I must have missed a more traditional set-up only to realize (and rather gratefully as a critic) that I had not.
Yet Brody's unorthodox introduction is only the beginning as we soon encounter several other strangers who've also been dropped into an unknown location for unknown reasons. While those watching the film eagerly as enthusiasts of the original creature feature B-picture with Arnold Schwarzenegger understand that eventually these people will become part of a growing body count once they meet with the horrifying beast(s) alluded to in the title, on another level we can't help but wonder just what everyone's motives are and who is telling the truth.
Namely, even before Brody and the outsider band of revolutionaries, fighters and “heavy hitters” realize they're being hunted a la The Most Dangerous Game complete with both allusions to Hemingway and jock talk speak to please all intellectual levels of the crowd, we understand that it's no accident that the film is called Predators since we're dealing with people who wouldn't be out of place snapping necks in a Rambo picture.
And when you couple all of these concerns with the film's staunch refusal to provide us with any concrete expository filled speeches to tell us precisely what's going on, we realize that – to both our benefit as well as the movie's incredible first act – we're forced to experience the journey as though we're embarking on it with the characters as part of the group.
This marks a welcome departure from the cliched genre set-up evidenced in countless, more traditional heroes journey movies wherein – given the macho franchise demands – a tough group of badasses are called to action, which results in a David vs. Goliath like battle to slay the evil villain and return with “elixir” reward.
And sure enough, until we meet Laurence Fishburne's survivalist wacko and the previously compelling movie morphs into an amalgam of I Am Legend and Escape from New York before turning into a gore creature feature in the final act, Predators is all the more thrilling for offering us an introduction that (rather literally) flies in the face of convention.
For a rock solid first half hour and a largely compelling second one, Predators makes us sit up a little straighter and use our brains more than we're normally required to do so in movies belonging to the same franchise and genre.
Rivaling the first Predator film in terms of its methodical, chilling and slightly slower placed climb to a slam bang guts and glory finish, Predators proves that sometimes it does take twenty-three years to get a sequel right.
Basically it works extraordinarily well as a straight follow-up to the original work complete with a conversational reference to the events of the first film and the tongue-in-cheek usage of “Long Tall Sally” as well. Moreover, the picture, which was deftly handled by Hungarian American filmmaker Nimrod Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy, Armored) complete with the creative input and oversight of producer Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), is much better than I expected it to be given the way the franchise has plummeted into far-out nonsense.
Unfortunately and aside from another ingenious character revelation you undoubtedly won't see coming, it does lose its inventive steam in its wretched finale. Forgetting the idea of strength in numbers and also in keeping us off balance a la Lost meets Clue in its wild opener, Predators eventually relishes in monster movie mayhem, by turning into a gruesome race to the final credits as one-by-one the unlikely team members are picked off by the horrific creatures until there's only a few left limping.
While it was inevitable that the large ensemble cast would begin to topple as the film continued since like any horror movie set in the wilderness, we're not that scared of a tree falling unless it whacks somebody senseless, Predators goes to such fanboy fright night extremes that it seems like two people instead of one are directing and editing the work.
Following the genre mandates of leaving the possibility of at least one sequel and another prequel wide open, Predators climbs back aboard the dumb action movie paradigm express in the end. Yet thankfully, admirably and rather heroically for more than just the first part of the ride, the journey became infinitely more thrilling since we hadn't been provided with a map, itinerary and also had no idea as to the identity of anyone with whom we were traveling, or how we'd boarded the train in the first place.
Yet despite the vast number of question marks, the one thing we know we'll never be able to forget was the feeling of falling from high above the ground in an experience in which we can immerse ourselves fully via this technically superior Fox Blu-ray. Although minus a discussion of Deux ex machina, the new 2-disc release boasts HD quality picture, sound and featurettes galore (including motion comic prequels) along with a digital copy to watch next time you're flying... through the air or on a plane.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review