Friday, July 16, 2010


Hey, I liked it. Went into the theaters with my fingers crossed, and, whaddya know? It was a good flick. And by “good flick,” I’m not referencing The Brothers Karamazov or anything. It’s good in a sense that would make Jean-Paul Sartre wink and nod and light up another cig. What I mean is, it’s good because it stays true to itself. It’s not nauseating. Well, at least in the sense that Jean-Paul would hurl that word around.

I remember my old jerky old self as a twenty-something, at the movies with a buddy. In this case, with Ricardo, my lead guitarist in the pre-carnation of my band, Subtle Hint. The movie in question was Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I vividly recall the lava-lamp bubbles on the movie screen as we munched popcorn awaiting for the carnage to commence. And let me tell you, that movie absolutely floored me. Instant classic.

Every Predator movie since, though, is basically a waste of time.

Back in the late winter I first read of Predators, plural. It was not to be a reboot or a remake, but a sequel to the Schwarzeneggerian original. That indeed piqued my interest, news of Adrien Brody being cast in the Arnold lead notwithstanding. The plot was simple and sweet, just what was required by the philosophy of a movie like this. As a matter of fact, as I write this, I’m thinking of the bad screenwriter’s maxim: never use 5 words when 500 will do. In other words, don’t shove so much into your story that you lose the essence of your story.

So, what’s the essence of Predators?

[warning: minor spoilers to follow ...]

A bunch of seriously mean dudes – and one chick – wake up in the jungle. Just about every ethnicity is represented. There’s an American mercenary, a Russian Spetsnaz soldier, a Somali Muslim, a redneck, a Mexican cartel enforcer, a Japanese Yakuza assassin, an upper-class white doctor. The woman confused me. I think she was supposed to be an Israeli special forces superchick, but for half the movie I thought she spoke with a Spanish accent. Oh well. The point is, despite the obligatory celebration of diversity, these are all bad, bad, bad folks you don’t mess with.

In other words, perfect game for the Predators. Which is what they slowly come to realize, probably a half-hour or so into the flick.

Then we spend an hour triaging our human warriors. Despite warnings from various conservative movie critics with moustaches and talk radio shows, the film was not as gory as I expected. Yes, someone gets his spine ripped out. Yes, there are impalements on spears. Yes, someone gets laserblasted into a cloud of red jelly. But it was all so quick that it was acceptable to my standards of taste. The camera did not linger fetishly over entrails nor did it delight in dwelling overmuch on human suffering.

Laurence Fishburne has a superb cameo midway through the movie. For those of us who forever associate him with the wise and überpowerful Morpheus, this role comes as a shock – a worthy one, because it’s unexpected and when I go and pays my money to see a movie, I want to be genuinely surprised. That dude earns every cent he’s paid.

And yes, Adrian Brody won me over. He spends the movie uttering Arnold-ish one-liners in a throaty growl and comes across as hammishly believable as a jaded mercenary. Though I can still envision him with a team of trainers and chefs getting him prepped for the role, he’s properly bulked up and learned his martial artistry effectively. The chick made me roll my eyes at first (remember, Arnold had no chick in his team twenty years ago), but she won me over, too, for actually displaying a legitimately feminine side.

I could keep going on about all the characters. But I’ll suffice with a generalization. What I liked best, aesthetically speaking, is that though they all start out as cardboard characters, and though there ain’t no spiritual metamorphoses or personal growth, obviously, I kinda felt relatively early into the movie that these could be real men, real warriors. Give credit for the director and the individual actors, I guess.

Other stuff I liked: the vagueness of ‘seeing a bright light’ and whammo! our victims are freefalling into the jungle planet hunting ground. Oh, and that setting – that hunting preserve – was creepy, claustrophobic, alien without being too alien. When they first learn they are on another world, that was a great scene. And the introduction of the Predators’ hunting dogs. I liked it all.

Two minor bones of contention. First, the Predators. Apparently, there are two types. One character compares them to dogs and wolves. I don’t know how necessary that was. I didn’t really see much difference and I don’t know if it was even necessary for the storyline.

Second, I was disappointed that Arnold did not make a cameo. I read somewhere a while back that his character, “Dutch”, was going to have a brief scene near the end of the flick, possibly rescuing or meeting with the human survivor(s). That sounded so very, very cool. However, it was not to be. I couldn’t believe the end credits were rolling without an Arnold sighting. I don’t know what happened. Maybe the scene was shot and cut. Maybe they couldn’t get the beleaguered California governor time-wise or money-wise. Too bad, it would have upped the movie’s grade a notch.

Speaking of a grade, LE gives Predators a solid A-minus. Can’t wait to see it again when it comes out on DVD. Honestly, I think my testosterone levels doubled by the end of the movie. I felt like going out and joining the USMC, if they’d have my sorry broken-down body with its broken-down heart. Or at least take a class in martial arts. Or go up to my uncle’s weekend retreat and shoot some rifles and shotguns.

One never knows if one will wake up one morning on an Predator hunting world.

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