Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Predators" One Ups the Original

Robert Rodriguez rocks my world once again. Granted it was Nimrod Antal (he did a few independent films and two previous Hollywood films—Armored and Vacancy) who directed “Predators,” it is producer Robert Rodriguez whose name appears above the title on the poster.

I’ve been a fan of Robert Rodriguez ever since I watched his classic “El Mariachi” in 1992. The production and selling of this film became the subject of the book “Rebel Without A Crew: Or How A 23 Year Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became A Hollywood Player.”

Since then, he went on to make Desperado, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, From Dusk Til Dawn, Sin City and Planet Terror (among others).

I have never been impressed by the Predator franchise—from the original with Arnold Schwarzenneger to the even worse sequels “Predator 2” and the Alien vs. Predator series (remember that horrendous tagline? Whoever wins, we lose.)

Not having taken to the Schwarzenneger-Stallone alpha male action movies of the 80’s I found the first one rather unexciting, and the rest ridiculous.

Obviously, having Troublemaker Studios get their nasty fingerprints on this one was reason enough for me to want to see it. Not only did I enjoy it much more than the first one, I actually enjoyed it more than I did James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Six people ruthless and skilled in the art of dealing death and one physician (Topher Grace) find themselves mysteriously parachuted down to hostile, alien terrain. It’s hunting season again, and guess who’s come to dinner and guess who’s got to scamper?

The de facto leader of the group of seven is a mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody)—don’t expect him to be the hero with even a sliver of a bleeding heart. His survival and killing instincts are there: one only walks with him only if one is useful---bear no illusions.

And is it really a Robert Rodriguez film without dear cousin and friend Danny Trejo? Trejo appears as Cuchillo (notice how Rodriguez often likes to give him names Razor Eddie, Razor Charlie, Machete and Navajas—for bladed instruments) a drug cartel enforcer. He’s always a welcome sight—a familiar fingerprint in the world of Troublemaker.

As with many of the films bearing the stamp of Troublemaker, this film’s ambition is to deliver the action packed goods with the requisite grotesque looking lethal aliens with the extended fanged mandibles, neon green blood, human bad-asses, cool looking guns, and other manner of vicious and foul looking carnivorous creatures.

While the characters would certainly not make the 100 Most Lovable People on the planet list, you do end up caring about their fate and root for them as they try to outwit, outlast and outplay the bigger, stronger, uglier and stealthier foes.

All this, without taking itself too seriously.

And yes Nimrod pulled through but I cannot help but offer another high five to Robert and Troublemaker for another piece of rock and roll filmmaking.

Predators opens today in Metro Manila

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