Movie Review – Predators (2010)
by HELEN GEIB
Predators is a “Ten Little Indians” story, monster-movie variety. While it never transcends its genre, it does work the conventions skillfully.
Eight strangers wake up in the jungle with no memory of how they got there. In a nod to the original film in the series, their surroundings resemble the Amazonian rainforest, but it isn’t the Amazon, and will be even- very much- harder to escape. The audience has the benefit of knowing about that earlier film and its monster, and so realizes well before the characters that they are being hunted by Predators. The group, seven men and one woman, are picked off one by one until only the toughest/luckiest are left standing for the final life-or-death confrontation.
The premise is an effective twist on the film’s “most dangerous game” set-up. Emblematic of the film overall, it’s not original, but it is well executed and has some clever touches.
For starters, the “game” are earth’s predators. They are an international cast of killers, some government-issue and some self-taught. Adding to the fun, they were plucked from their native habitats and deposited directly into the “preserve.” That means each is clothed and armed in his or her native costume: the military sharpshooter has her sniper’s rifle; the Russian soldier is wearing camo and is armed to the teeth with heavy duty, clunky weapons; the death row inmate is in his orange jumpsuit and hiding a shiv; the yakuza stands out with his fashionable suit and color-coordinated silver guns; and so on to excellent effect.
Moreover, the premise has a brutal logic that justifies why the group should be picked off one by one and not just immediately run down like dogs and slaughtered by the bigger, faster, and invisible (thanks to their cloaking technology) Predators. The humans are not being hunted for sport, as they are in the classic “most dangerous game” scenario. They are being hunted as a military training exercise conducted by representatives of a brutal warrior culture. Killing them slowly creates opportunities to study tactics and behavioral psychology, and for one-on-one tests of physical prowess.
The cast is unexpectedly respectable for a monster movie. It is led by Adrien Brody as the team’s natural leader, a mercenary who can quote Hemingway to explain his lack of natural human feeling. Alice Braga’s character is the voice of conscience and the second toughest human. Topher Grace plays a doctor who doesn’t seem like he’s supposed to be there with the soldiers and criminals; it’s very well done, the way the movie generates suspense by withholding the inevitable revelation nearly until the end. Laurence Fishburne has a delicious small part as a man with an imaginary friend. The casting has the commercial advantage that it appeals to a wider audience than the core genre fanbase, but more importantly it puts actors on the screen who aren’t overwhelmed by the action and creature effects.
There’s a lot of running and shooting, a fair amount of pummeling, and some slashing and impaling, but thankfully not all that much viscera. Unlike the slasher and serial killer films that have dominated the horror genre in recent years, Predators actually ratchets back the gore instead of upping the ante.
Coincidence or Adrien Brody’s new career path? Predators follows close on the heels of Splice.