Predators isn’t bad. It’s not that great either. I can’t properly articulate it but this “middle-of-the road-ness” is in someways more frustrating than an out-and-out bad installment in a long running franchise. We’ve had crappy Predator movies before, but we’ve never had a “just decent” one.
The film has a great cast, a proven filmmaker (I found director Nimrod Antal’s 2007 film Vacancy to be immensely enjoyable) and it’s shot quite nicely. What hobbles it, and I do mean a vicious Misery-style hobbling, is its generic and bland script.
The premise itself is not the problem. The idea of having a group of multicultural badasses taken from armies and gangs all over earth and having them dropped into a giant game preserve is inspired. Sure it’s goofy, but it’s the good kind of goofy that dispenses with boring exposition and (literally)drops our characters into the middle of the action. Out of the aforementioned badasses Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins (who played Shane on The Shield), Alice Braga (City of God) and Adrian Brody (The Pianist) are the highlights. There’s also a brief scene-stealing turn from Laurence Fishburne.
For those doubtful that the rather bookish looking Brody will be believable as a Black-ops mercenary should be quieted up right quick once the action starts. Brody and the rest of the cast’s awesome ham-fisted performances are easily the best part of the film. The actors (Goggins especially) take the cliche crappy dialogue they’ve been handed and try their damnedest to inject some life into it but it’s too little too late. Their lines are DOA.
One of the best parts about the original Predator was all the great quips given to the characters, they not only looked tough but they talked tough. They weren’t spouting genius, earth-shattering dialogue, but at least it was fresh and entertaining. Strip away their archetypal clothing (i.e. the yakuza in a snazzy suit, the redneck felon in his deathrow jumpsuit) and this new set of “cannon-fodder” characters are all interchangeable. Even when there is an attempt to spice things up with a joke or one-liner, it’s telegraphed and falls flat.
The film also has pacing issues, with a huge chunk of time in the beginning when the titular aliens go unseen and then a silly, clunky and disjointed climax. When it finally looks like the human characters are getting the upper-hand the whole picture stalls out and the “galaxy’s greatest hunter” goes MIA for five or so minutes, allowing everyone time to chat amongst themselves. It has no rhythm or logic to it and, worse yet, no surprises.
It may sound like I’m being too hard on the film, and maybe that’s true because there is a lot to enjoy here, but it’s frustrating to think of what “could have been” had a little more effort been taken on the page. Especially considering the obscene amount of talent both in front of and behind the camera.
For those with lowered expectations Predators is a passable R-rated B-movie and one of the better ways to spend 2 hours in air-conditioning this weekend considering this year’s lack of quality summer movies. So if you’ve already seen Toy Story 3 (yeah I know, big overlap in audience there) and there isn’t a theater playing the fabulous Winter’s Bone in your area, I would say go for it.