Predators

Turns out Adrien Brody isn't so much an action hero, as an action anti-hero. He's rude, stubborn, and cares more about his giant knife than any of the people he finds himself stranded with. On the other hand, none of those things are all that noticeable, since that description fits pretty much all of the characters in the film.

Everyone knows the basic plot, because it's really simple. The Predators like to kill things. They like to practice killing things, the harder to kill the better. Ergo, snap up the most violent, vicious, and deadly humans you can find, and see if you can kill them before they kill you. Just once, I'd like there to be a movie featuring an alien race that's smaller, weaker, and generally much easier to kill than humans, because that never happens outside of the occasional Star Trek episode. In the movies, every alien species is either a killing machine that thinks homo sapiens are delicious, or so far advanced beyond us that they look at us and think, "Hm, lab rats!" or possibly, "Ew, they're like roaches! Let's kill them all before they spread any further."

Anyway, Adrien Brody is apparently ex-Black Ops military, currently some form of mercenary. He only has one name, like all the characters -- some movie makers' form of conservation, I guess -- and you don't find it out until the very end, so I won't say it here in case anyone prefers to be surprised. Few people bother with introductions, which is a refreshing change from the usual, where characters stop in the midst of a desparate fight for survival to swap life stories; but it's a little odd. Adrien, like many of the others, seems to actively avoid giving any name. I suppose the mercenaries, U.S. Special Forces, Yakuza higher-ups, and drug cartel enforcers of the world do need to be cautious about giving out their names to everyone they meet.

Oleg Taktarov (We Own the Night) actually does introduce himself. He's Nikolai. He was fighting in Chechnya, and the next thing he knew, he was falling through the air and landing in a strange jungle. Everyone else's story is similar, from the guy from the Sierra Leone death squad (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, and I really hope imdb has that spelled right, because I just copy-pasted, of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) to the military sniper (Alice Braga, Repo Men). She has a gun with a remote control on top. There's also the death-row inmate (Walton Goggins), and just imagine the fuss when he got yanked out of his cell. I wonder if they broke in and got him, or if they have some sort of teleporter?

The drug cartel muscle is Danny Trejo, of the upcoming Machete; the Yakuza guy is Louis Ozawa Changchien; and the doctor is Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3). Yeah, he spends much of the movie running, hiding, and screaming for help, because face it, unless you have a big gun, you're in some serious trouble. It's also kind of rough on Death Row Inmate, who only has a shiv that he made in his cell in his copious free time. And this bunch have clearly never done any roleplaying, because they constantly let their only medic wander at the back of the group by himself. The healer should always be in the middle, people. There are three people (Carey Jones, Brian Steele, and Derek Mears) listed as playing Predators of one sort or another, and that's the entire cast, except for the surprise guest star. It isn't often I get to mention everyone.

The mayhem is considerable, of course. The death toll is high. Neon green blood flows almost as freely as the red stuff. But strangely, the movie isn't all about the violence. It works on other levels, too, and that's why it's good. It deals with trust, the ethics of survival, and how even being a monster can be relative. Best of all, it never beats you over the head with these things. When Sniper Alice Braga says she can't agree to the plan the others have decided on -- she thinks it's morally wrong -- all Mercenary Adrien Brody says is "That's on you."

And that's also four out of five. It's bloody enough to satisfy those who go expecting gore, yet thoughtful enough that I wasn't wondering if the killing was almost over already. It pays homage to the original movie without being silly about it. They introduce cool new beasties. The effects for the camouflage armor are stellar. And that low, rumbling growl of the hunting Predator is still enough to raise the little hairs on the back of your neck.

Image: 
Sniper Alice Braga and her Really Big Gun

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