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Back to the jungle
le 23 février 2014
One of the biggest problems I had with "Predator 2" was that it abandoned the atmosphere of the original "Predator" movie. As for the AvP movies, forget it.
Well, "Predators" has a completely different cast and setting from the original... yet it successfully captures that grimy, sweaty, blood-stained jungle quality. The difference this time is that all the humans are also vicious killers of one kind or another, and strong performances by Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne and the rest keep us invested despite the nastiness of some characters.
Eight people find themselves parachuted into an unknown jungle: Royce, an American mercenary (Brody); Isabelle, an IDF sniper (Braga); Hanzo, a yakuza enforcer (Louis Ozawa Changchien); Nikolai, a Spetsnatz soldier (Oleg Taktarov); Mombasa, a Sierra Leone death squad member (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali); Cuchillo, a cruel cartel thug (Danny Trejo); Stans, a serial killer on death row (Walton Goggins), and a seeming harmless doctor named Edwin (Topher Grace).
At first, the eight people have no idea who they are doing there, or how they came to be there. They have even more questions when they realize that this jungle isn't even on Earth.
But that isn't their biggest problem: someone is following them through the jungle, and slaughtering these seasoned killers one by one. Also, there's a crazy guy (Laurence Fishburne) who may be a lot more dangerous than he seems. Their only chance of survival is to somehow kill the alien Predators that are following them -- assuming they don't kill each other first.
When I first heard of "Predators," my first thought was that it sounded more like a remake than a sequel. But it does successfully twiddle the original formula -- the humans are all professional killers, none of them know each other, and there is no safe haven for them unless they are able to somehow get a spaceship. Even the "obfuscate the heat vision" scene is turned on its head.
But at the same time, director Nimród Antal and producer Robert Rodrieguez GET it. They know why the original movie worked, and they successfully twiddle the formula without losing what makes it good. The story is simple and mostly straightforward (with a few easy-to-predict twists), with the sweaty, bloodstained atmosphere of people trapped in the jungle.
The one big problem? Well, halfway through the movie we're introduced to the idea that there are different breeds of Predator, and they hunt each other as well as other species... it's never explained enough. It's a bit confusing.
I was initially skeptical of the casting of tall, skinny Adrien Brody as the lead character, but he's frankly pretty awesome -- a lean, wiry, cold-as-ice guy who has a soft spot for "nice" people. The gravelly Batman voice is a little off-putting, though. We get it, you're tough.
And the other actors all do brilliant jobs, fleshing out their characters -- each one gets pros and cons to their personality, no matter how repulsive they may be. Braga and Taktarov are especially good as the only "good" people in the group, who seem to have stable compassionate personalities, while Changchien manages to make a likable, interesting character out of only a handful of lines and a truly awesome kendo duel. And yes, Grace has a wonderfully chilling performance set apart from the assorted soldiers and enforcers.
"Predators" catches the tone and atmosphere of the original "Predator," then twists around the entire formula. Brilliant acting and a simple, solid story.