Film review – Predators (2010)

5 July 2010
Predators: Royce (Adrien Brody)

Royce (Adrien Brody)

Before even finding out the identity of Royce (Adrien Brody), a cold-hearted mercenary, we are introduced to him unconscious, plummeting from the sky in freefall. An automatic parachute opens and he lands in a strange jungle along with a bunch of other bewildered strangers who are dangerous criminals, elite soldiers or a combination of the two. The one things they have in common is that they are confused, expert killers and pretty unpleasant people. It takes them a while to figure out what the audience already knows – they are game for the species of super-hunter aliens known as Predators.

The good news for many fans is that this fifth cinematic outing for the Predators is a sequel to John McTiernan’s 1987 film Predator with Stephen Hopkins’s 1990 Predator 2 and the two widely disliked spin-off/Aliens tie-in films unacknowledged. In fact, only the events from McTiernan’s original film are referenced and referred to. By calling the film Predators the filmmakers are evoking the relationship between the original Alien film and its sequel Aliens by implying that Predators is the rightful follow-up film to Predator and promises to up the ante in terms of action and the number of creatures for the human characters to contend with. While Predators 2 is an overlooked guilty pleasure, this new Predators does feel like the proper sequel. The setting is once more a jungle, although this time an alien one, and the idea of what it means to be a hunter and to be the hunted is explored further.

Predators:  Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga)

Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga)

There is a nice bit of poetic justice at play in Predators where the human characters realise that they themselves are predatory types and they are able to recognise many of the tricks and strategies used by the Predators. The Predators themselves are revealed to be a more complex race than originally depicted with their own brutal version of racial hierarchy. Nevertheless, all the Predators are warriors and the idea that there could be non-warrior versions of the species is unlikely to ever be explored, which is a shame as somebody could have a lot of fun revealing that the Predators are in fact the pro-hunting gun-nut equivalent of an otherwise peaceful and civilised alien race.

For the most part Predators is B-grade fun in the best possible way. Producer Robert Rodriguez had originally begun developing this film as far back as the early 1990s after the success of El Mariachi but Hungarian filmmaker Nimród Antal (Vacancy, Armoured) has ended up directing. Antal’s Hollywood films are yet to fully live up to the promise he displayed in his début film Kontroll but with Predators he nevertheless does an excellent job filming the various action scenes. Predators is well paced with a good build up and the right degree of character development you need to care about the fate of the human characters. There are also a few genuine surprises and twists.

Predators

Predators does somewhat fall apart towards the end with a drawn out and messy conclusion with a few too many improbable factors letting down what was a reasonably strong film until then. Predators is certainly no Aliens (but then again Predator was never on par with Alien either) but it is still a fun ride. With its diverse group of anti-heroes, believable action and absence of smart-ass self-reflexivity, it delivers the sort of engaging spectacle that characterises the action films of the 1980s.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Film review – My Bloody Valentine (2009)

11 February 2009

_MG_3104_04347RTo use the current Hollywood vernacular, My Bloody Valentine is a “re-imagining” of the 1981Canadian slasher film of the same name. This new film is the sort of re-make, sequel and revamp where the basic concept and characters have been retained but it is essentially a whole new film. As in the original version, a small mining town is being menaced by a crazed miner who wears an identity concealing gas mask and dispatches his victims, predominantly, with a mean looking pickaxe. After massacring a bunch of teenagers he is then supposedly killed. However ten years later the murders start again and it seems that the survivors of the previous massacre are the primary targets. But is it the same miner who is again doing the killing or has somebody else inherited the gas mask, boiler suit and pickaxe? The big mystery that the film wants the audience to ponder is who the killer may be. However, the real mystery to My Bloody Valentine is whether it is supposed to be hilarious self-parody or if it is a classic example of a film that is so bad it’s good.

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Film review – The Spirit (2008)

2 February 2009
The Spirit (Gabriel Macht)

The Spirit (Gabriel Macht)

The Spirit is an adaptation of an acclaimed and influential 1940s comic strip by revered comic artist and writer Will Eisner. The Spirit (played in the film by Gabriel Macht from The Good Shepherd and A Love Song for Bobby Long) is a sharply dressed, masked crime fighter who is loved by the ladies and supported by the police. He has no superpowers but is mysteriously invincible, as is his arch nemesis The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). Frank Miller, a contemporary comic book legend, has written the screenplay and directed the film. Miller is responsible for the Batman comic story that influenced Tim Burton’s films Batman and Batman Returns, and he also created the comics Sin City and 300, both of which were very faithfully adapted for the big screen. Miller shared a director credit with Robert Rodriguez for the film version of Sin City so you would think that he was an ideal candidate for directing The Spirit film. But you would be wrong. Miller’s director credit for Sin City was very much an honorary title and he clearly didn’t learn much from watching Rodriguez work because The Spirit is an extremely amateurish effort.

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Film review – Lucky Number Slevin (aka The Wrong Man) (2006)

7 August 2006

Director Paul McGuigan’s best film to date is still the English gangster film Gangster No. 1 from 2000. However, the major problem with Gangster No. 1 is the same problem that plagues McGuigan’s latest effort Lucky Number Slevin. Both films suffer from a very weak final third act but while Gangster No. 1 was salvageable, the direction that Lucky Number Slevin takes completely ruins what initially promises to be a good film.

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DVD review – Comic Book: The Movie (2004), Region 4, Force Entertainment

13 September 2005

Film adaptations of comic books are at the peak of their popularity since 1989’s Batman revived the genre. Films as diverse as Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Sin City and American Splendor are achieving critical acclaim and packed houses. A documentary on this cultural phenomenon would have been welcomed, which is why it is so unfortunate that Comic Book: The Movie, directed and starring Mark Hamill (Star Wars’s Luke Skywalker), is an embarrassingly amateurish 2004 mockumentary. 

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