Predators

I suppose it’s a sign of the times that instead of a highly trained and diverse team of American special operations troops we have a motley crew of killers from around the globe in Nimród Antal’s Predators.

The story suffers from the same problem that most franchises these days have: it’s a really awesome piece of fan fiction. I found myself wondering how good this movie could have been if they’d have just said “Predator inspired us,” but went further in other directions.

Adrien Brody plays the grizzled main character, who we meet in mid-air as he plummets toward an unknown jungle. He and his full-auto-shotgun cross paths with six other internationally known types of bad-asses, like a member of the Yakuza, a Spetznaz soldier, an Israeli sniper and others who were all deposited the same way. Then there’s Topher Grace. Grace’s presence leads to several fish out of water jokes and the most dramatically brain-dead twist since it turned out Harry J. Lennix was behind it all in Dollhouse.

The plot is the Schwarzenegger original turned up to 11. Brody and his Testosterone Team are being hunted by god knows what only now it’s on a whole other planet, which would have been revealed in the movie with a neat skyline shot had they not given it away in the previews two months before the release of the film.

And then they get hunted some more. That’s pretty much it. There are hints, provided in the form of a Laurence Fishburne cameo, that there is some sort of war going on between two separate Predator races, but it adds almost nothing to the plot. Fishburne does have fun as a sort of human answer to the Bald Headed Bear to the Predator’s John Candy in The Great Outdoors , but that joy is short lived as the movie is intent on hinting that man is the real monster despite the fact that these people were kidnapped by aliens.

I hate to come across as a jingoistic when it comes to alien cultures, but you know what? If you are going to abduct people from our planet for sport hunting, well you had best be prepared for me to not care how “evil” the people you are hunting are. Up with the Humans!

The movie gets a lot right, including building tension like the original and having some of those really nasty “These people are being hunted!” moments, but it actually feels hamstrung by the Predator premise.

Let’s think a minute on action movies. You find an excuse to blow things up and shoot and things, and you build a narrative around it. Predator was cool precisely because we had never seen anything like it, and the tension comes from people having no clue what the hell the Predator actually is. After one hard sequel and two spin-offs, we know what the hell a Predator is so now the only surprise is how the predator kills people. That sounds a lot like an intergalactic slasher franchise, which Jason X already did and while it was terrible, it was at least fun.

Repo Men

Repo Men deserves some kind of award, as it very nearly succeeds in making an entire movie by taking pieces from nearly every critical or commercial success from the past decade.

Opening with a radio broadcast about the economy crashing, the war going on, and how life generally sucks, the film establishes its dystopian setting cheaply. From there the film focuses on Remy (Jude Law), a "Repo man" (read: assassin) who, in a rather bloody opening collects a liver from an unfortunate guy who defaulted on his payments to the sinister megacorporation, Union.

Remy works with Jake (Forest Whitaker), his best friend from childhood, and has barbecues with his rough-tough-tattooed-blue-collar co-workers.  It's never really explained how Remy has a Cockney accent if he grew up in Anytown, U.S.A., but it certainly adds weight to the whole “I’m a working-class bloke” vibe, where the motto is, "a job's a job."

Their manager, Frank (Liev Schreiber), is as oily as they come. Part used car salesman, part sleazy home loan officer, Frank speaks in that generic movie ‘Merican businessman accent, and is an undemanding boss. He sells people new organs with meaningless buzzwords and platitudes, then coldly orders the "Repo" when the customer's can't pay.

Remy’s life goes completely south when he tries to repossess the heart of a music producer, TBone (RZA), and destroys his own heart with a malfunctioning defibrillator and then waking up in a hospital with a metaphor jammed into his chest. Naturally, with this new liberal heart, he can no longer do his job because he has new-found sympathy for the clients. Eventually he meets Beth (Alice Braga), a lounge singer with a  heart of gold (presumably her own), and more replacement parts than a NFL player retirement home. We'll let you guess if they do the Dirty Boogie at some point.

Following the rules of action thrillers, the other Repo Men are sent to hunt them down, leading to several fight sequences, one very much like the fight from Oldboy (hammer and all), followed by a scene where they each have to scan their robot parts to get themselves out of the system. It’s filmed like a sex scene, except that they're slicing each other open, so it's all kinds of wrong. This all culminates in an ending that, while it's the film's one saving grace, is still ripped straight from Brazil.

Overall, the movie is solid, but borrows too heavily on other films without bringing anything new. There are some nice twists, and the production is top notch. The soundtrack mixes six decades of pop culture, much like the visuals. The actors are giving it their all -especially Whitaker- and the jet black humor helps smooth things over. However,y derivative, it never finds a voice of it’s own. Finally, since we all know what's going to happen up to a point, the audience spends most of the time just waiting to get there.

Come to think of it, Gamer was ALSO really derivative and make for a  decent pairing with this movie. Sort of a, “we liked it better when they did it in 'X.'”