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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Predators
Predators
Fox // R // October 19, 2010
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted October 18, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Product:
Among the many properties being remade, it was supposed to be one of the best. After all, it had grindhouse guardian and Sin City savant Robert Rodriguez behind the scenes, handpicking Vacancy and Armored director Nimrod Antal to revive the fortunes of this once feisty franchise. Sure, there would be no Governator, or a return to the original South American storyline. Thankfully, the whole "Alien vs... " angle would be dropped as well. Instead, a new scenario was conceived in which a group of elite killers find themselves on an extraterrestrial game preserve, the prey for a space monster inspired take on The Most Dangerous Game. Given the lean and mean label Predators, it was prepped as one of Summer 2010's tentpoles, the rebirth of a crab-mouthed creature's commercial fortunes. Instead, the film found its core audience - and that's about it. So why did something so surefire underperform? The answer may lie in the premise...or the performances...or the personnel behind the production. All share a bit of the blame.

The Plot:
Waking up from unconsciousness, Special Ops expert turned mercenary Royce finds himself in freefall, plummeting to the surface of the planet. When he lands, he gets his bearings and discovers a group of well armed individuals who have all suffered the same (or similar) fate. They include drug cartel hitman Cuchillo, Yakuza enforcer Hanzo, Spetsnaz grunt Nikolai, Israeli soldier Isabelle, RUF officer Mombasa, death row murderer Stans and a doctor named Edwin. It's not long before they figure out why they have been brought together. Seems they have been shuttled to an alien game preserve, their various skills put to the test against the greatest hunters in all the galaxy - the Predators. One by one, they will be tracked by the hostile creatures, their varying human attributes examined and exploited. For Royce, there is no other option but survive. Everyone else agrees. They may not be that lucky.

The DVD:
If there are three main problems with Predators - as listed above, the premise, the performances, and the personnel behind the production - then the end result should be something almost unwatchable, right? After all, you can't have a mediocre storyline, some less than effective acting, and an underwhelming result from your producer and director and not feel a little dissatisfied. Oddly enough, Predators survives many of its pitfalls to become intriguing, if ultimately forgettable. This is not the reboot the studios hoped for (though sequel talk keeps simmering away). Instead, it's a novel approach upended by mistakes in many areas. First off, it seems foolish to set everything on an alien planet, especially when it turns out to be nothing more than Earth with a lot of indigenous issues. There's not enough done with the cosmic space, the inclusion of predator dogs notwithstanding. Similarly, by pitting everyone against the monsters right up front, we don't get a lot of bravura character on character chest thumping. Before we know it, our heroes are taking hits and running for their seemingly worthless stereotyped lives.

Good acting could make up for some of these mistakes, but Predators is all over the map in this department. As usual, the trusty Danny Trejo delivers - only to be "knocked out" early. Similarly, Alice Braga (Isabelle) tries to stand her well gained ground, but usually sees her scenery chewed up by the likes of Walter Coggins (as Stans), Oleg Taktarov (Nikolai), and perhaps most offensively, a loony bin bit of cameo work from Laurence Fishburne. On the other side of the defenseless, is Adrien Brody. He is a weak lead, not really steely man of action material. Similarly, Topher Grace's doctor is such a wicked red herring that when the denouement finally arrives, you feel like slapping your head - or the filmmakers. Of course, we don't come to a Predator film to see finesse work by Oscar winners, we come for balls to the wall action and thrills. Sadly, what Rodriguez and Antal have is mind is not all that electrifying. Instead, we get some decent set pieces followed by surreal bits of narrative that seem to serve no real purpose other than to suck time. We want more artillery fire and arterial spray. Instead, we get a glimpse at Predator bigotry (no, seriously).

In the end, we expect more from Mr. Planet Terror. When he gets behind the lens, he never lets up, even if the eventual choices argue for his sanity or cinematic sense. Right now, imagine the movie that Robert Rodriguez himself could make out of the Predator idea. Not take everything away that your mind's eye created and you've got some idea of how mediocre the eventual version is. This is not to say that Predators is a major league Jonah Hex level bomb. Heck, it's a million miles away from the flop sweat stink of Predators 2, Alien vs. Predator, and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. So from a cover art blurb standpoint, this update is one of the best installments in the franchise - which, by the way, is like saying that the flu is better than testicular cancer. Rodriguez should have gunned this sucker like a tricked out muscle car and let it run ramshackle over unsuspecting audiences. Who cares about commercial contrivances and concerns? We want blood and guts. Sadly, while enjoyable, Predators gives us little of both - and oddly enough, it looks like it never intended to in the first place.

The Video:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If FOX does send a final product version of Predators to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If FOX does send a final product version of Predators to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:
There are five basic bonus features offered (there may be more on the Blu-ray, and there may be more on the eventual DVD release - remember, this is not final product). The first is a featurette outlining the "visualization" of the Predators world. It's decent, but at a little over ten minutes, not that in-depth. Second is a selection of motion comics. Boring. Then there is the theatrical trailer, complete with elements tweaked for the ad that do not appear in the final cut. Interesting. Fourth, there are Sneak Peeks for other FOX titles. Yippie! Finally, the best bit of course is the commentary track from Rodriguez and Antal. They get along quite well and offer an engaging overview of the film and its various production problems. It almost makes the rest of the added content seem special...almost.

Final Thoughts:
Predators couldn't possibly live up to all the glorified geek hype rained on its prior to its release. There is just too much of the home video vibe circa 1988 attached to the project to live up to everyone's movie machismo expectations. This doesn't mean it had to be so bland and basic, however. Talents like Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal can do better than this - much better. As a result, the title earns a simple Rent It. If you enjoy this new spin on the movie mythos, by all means, spend a few more bucks and buy a copy. If you're underwhelmed by what you see - and there's a good chance you will be, then the price you pay is perfectly acceptable. More times than not, a remake cannot come close to hanging with the original. In the case of Predators, the original Predator definitely kicks its inconsistent ass - on all counts.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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