Predators: Adrien Brody ain't no Arnie
Starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, and Laurence Fishburne. Rated 18A.
The only role I ever enjoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger in was the one he was born to play: the cyborg assassin in The Terminator. I never bought into any of his other one-note characterizations, including the Rambo-like hero of Die Hard director John McTiernan’s 1987 sci-fi action-horror, Predator. Although that movie introduced a wild-looking creature and boasted some neat visual effects, its overbearing macho vibe—thanks also to jock costars Carl Weathers and Jesse “The Body” Ventura—grew old fast.
Watch the trailer for Predators.
I much preferred 1990’s Predator 2, which had Danny Glover as a flawed L.A. cop taking on Jamaican drug gangs and something much more vicious. As he’d shown the previous year with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, director Stephen Hopkins was capable of bringing feverish fun to genre films, and Predator 2 was a total hoot. The same can’t be said for 2004’s utterly ridiculous time-waster, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, and I never got around to seeing 2007’s AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem—some other Straight critic threw himself on that grenade. Which brings us to the series’ latest installment.
Predators opens with Adrien Brody literally falling from the sky as an American mercenary with no idea where he is or why he’s plummeting to the ground. Just before making a big splat in a thick jungle he manages to get his parachute open, and soon other, equally mystified characters are landing nearby, including the awesome Danny Trejo as a Mexican drug-cartel enforcer, Oleg Taktarov as a Russian special-forces fighter plucked from Chechnya, and Louis Ozawa Changchien as an elegantly dressed yakuza. Topher Grace actually drops in as a freaked-out doctor, his smart-ass That ’70s Show persona intact for predictable comic relief. Not a good sign.
Before long, this motley but mostly well-armed crew of heroes and villains realizes it’s been thrown together to be hunted down and slaughtered, and the rest of the film sees it desperately trying to avoid that outcome.
There are some nicely shot action scenes—including an extended booby-trap sequence and an alien-warthog-from-hell attack early on—but Predators never overcomes the fatal miscasting of Brody as the group’s take-charge, tough-guy leader. Even with a supposed 25 pounds packed on for the role, the actor’s inherent geekiness just doesn’t allow him to transform into the next Arnie. He won’t be baaack.