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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 9, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 28
Predators is textbook Hollywood fun - just don't think about it
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Predators is textbook Hollywood fun - just don't think about it

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Predators
Opening July 9


Predators is not cutting-edge sci-fi. On the contrary, if I had to teach a class on the classic Hollywood action/adventure style I'd have the students watch Predators. It's textbook.

The Predators team (producer Robert Rodriguez, director Nimród Antal, and writers Michael Finch and Alex Litvak) have purloined from the best of classic Hollywood to make a fun summer movie that's a great way to blow a couple of hours. And the monsters are delicious.

A group of strangers end up in a jungle together, most of them armed to the teeth. They must figure out where they are, who brought them there, and why. Ultimately, they must also figure out how to avoid becoming a trophy on a very nasty dude's wall.

I knew going in there would be altruistic heroism, ugly surprises, and unredeemable villains. I knew there would be rescues from precipices, fortuitous falls affording fantastic escapes, and über-violent fisticuffs in which nobody gets seriously injured. I expected booby traps, dangerous flora/fauna, and guns perpetually filled with ammo. I wasn't disappointed.

Predators is like your favorite pair of jeans, and there's a good reason why Antal and crew made these familiar cinematic choices. It's because they work and they have worked for a very, very long time. Predators may not make you think, but that's not its game.

I'm afraid I've turned my partner Steven into a bigger movie snob than I am. He was slightly disappointed in Predators, feeling like he'd seen the movie before. Well, to be fair, he has. Though not with these characters (the Predator character is brilliantly conceived despite this being only the second movie to truly exploit the potential) in this setting. That's how the classic Hollywood movie works. If I want my buttons pushed this summer, I'll go see I Am Love, Winter's Bone, or The Killer Inside Me. But I don't always want my buttons pushed.

Adrien Brody (Royce) has been in the gym; Topher Grace (Edwin) has not. They are both solid actors with little to do other than grimace and show resolve. Grace gets a solid D for his work because the change his character goes through feels unearned. Brody gets a B because his character's arc is pretty well modulated if utterly predictable (not totally his fault). The rest of the cast are cartoon characters - fun cartoon characters, but still cartoon characters. In fact, Laurence Fishburne's character talking to himself elicited a couple of unintended snickers.

If there's a twist on the style, it's got to do with the moral ambiguity/deficit of nearly every character in the film. Sure, I was rooting for the humans at the start, but the more I found out about each of them, the more they all started to look a lot like the other guys. Who said this flick wouldn't make you think?

Actually, I said that, and while I do recommend you see Predators, I hope you don't actually think about it.

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