Friday, July 9, 2010

Ah-nuld Would Be Proud

I went into the first showing of PREDATORS this morning with fingers crossed and a prayer on my lips -- that some way, somehow, Robert Rodriguez would be able to restore some of the bloody sheen to a pretty tarnished genre legacy, and maybe, just maybe, bring some much-needed relief to a pretty crappy movie summer.

My prayers were answered, kids.

As a lover of action movies in general, and action-oriented sci-fi in particular, ALIENS and the original PREDATOR have always ranked pretty high on my list. (I'll put PREDATOR next to T2 as my absolute favorite Schwarzenegger pictures.) I was actually deluded into thinking (once upon a time) that melding the two franchises was a pretty good idea. Then the first AVP movie snared a PG-13 rating with some watered-down action, cheesy FX, and lousy performances. Ugh. The last one, AVP: REQUIEM, was basically a teen slasher film tricked out to look tougher than it was. That didn't leave me with much hope for (or interest in) another sequel.

Then word got around that Robert Rodriguez had dusted off an old treatment of the PREDATOR franchise with the intention of filming something closer to the tone of the original blockbuster. I was encouraged, even after I heard that Rodriguez would only be producing the film, not directing it; he would put someone named Nimrod Antal in the director's chair. I wasn't worried. Thinking Rodriguez wouldn't have some kind of input in PREDATORS is like thinking Spielberg had nothing to do with POLTERGEIST and it was all Tobe Hooper's doing. Uh huh.

This movie kicks righteous ass, f0lks. For starters, the ubiquitous CGI has been dialed waaaay down (with one snazzy exception, a "big reveal" shot about a third of the way in that any genre fans in the crowd with half a brain stem probably already saw coming) and the old-school creature FX/makeup work of the KNB group has been dialed waaaay up. Second, the cast has been populated with some pretty solid actors, starting with Adrien Brody (an Oscar winner, for Pete's sake) in the de facto Arnold part. If you thought Brody held his own as the hero in KING KONG, then you ain't seen nothing yet.

Brody's one of a group of 8 who find themselves mysteriously dropped into an unknown jungle locale; the common factor is that they all come from violent backgrounds. Pretty soon, things start to happen, their numbers start dwindling, and the survivors are fighting for their lives. (I'm trying to keep the plot in general terms for newbies, but you vets get the drift.)

One of the things I loved about PREDATORS is that it gives more than a few nods to its original predecessor. One of the characters is armed with the same type of portable gatling gun that Governor Ventura sported in the first movie, and what song do you think plays over the closing credits? I'll give you a hint -- it was blasting from Ventura's boombox at the beginning of the original. Nice!

PREDATORS was a fun ride, definitely worth a ticket, and I look forward to seeing it again. Give it a solid 9.5 out of 10 stars.

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