This week’s episode of Castle, Clear & Present Danger started off like an early Halloween special hinting at deals with the devil and the invisible man. So a combination of supernatural and science fiction was on offer which then segwayed into scientific territory. At the start of the episode, this show’s victim was in the middle of playing pool when something invisible attacked him and pushed a broken pool cue through his chest.
Not everyone who watched Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sabotage enjoyed the experience or the film too much, but in terms of the former California Governor’s comeback trail, at least it is a grownup film for his grownup fans. While waiting for the film to begin at the AMC Town Square 18 theater, the man in charge of the advanced screening made sure to tell those in the audience that the movie was rated “R” for a reason.
Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be getting his Mojo back with his latest offering, Sabotage. His performance in this David Ayer directed film is on par with his earlier work, pre-politics. The movie is one of those cinematic treats that begins as one type of film and then segways into another before changing lanes yet again. Co-written by Skip Woods (The A Team, Hitman and Swordfish) and director Ayer (Training day, End of Watch and S.W.A.T.) the action is pretty relentless and quite satisfying.
Okay, so I decided to ring in the changes of the New Year by having a mini-movie-marathon. It all started with catching the still amazing Jurassic Park on television. That put me in the mood for movies I had not seen in a while. So I popped in Predators and the Blu-ray special edition of Battle Royale (Game ober). On a side note, I was on Battle Royale when the clock struck twelve so I paused it (a pretty painful thing to do, because I love that film) and watched my neighbour’s fireworks for about an hour.
Waking up today I wanted to talk about Predators and why, as a sequel, it disappointed me a little. I also wanted to say how I felt about the film and the fact that nobody says, “Get to the spaceship!”
*just kidding about the spaceship part, although that would have been cool*
According to Wikipedia, Robert Rodriguez wrote the screenplay for Predators way back when he was doing Desperado. The article goes on to say that the studio was not impressed with the possible big budget that the film would require and passed. Fast forward to a time when Rodriguez is now damn near a “brand name” in Tinsel Town and he gets the green light.
Unfortunately, Rob decides not to direct the film (which in my opinion kills the movie right off the bat) and instead opts to produce it and hires Nimród Antal to direct the film.
Now it’s probably just me, but, I cannot for one minute take anyone seriously who has the name, “Nimrod.” Just cannot do it. When I was a teen, a nimrod was slang for an idiot. Phrases like: “Way to go, ya nimrod!” or “Jeeze, what a nimrod!” springs to mind every time I hear this guy’s name. Not an overly auspicious start there Robert.
I mean don’t get me wrong, Antal has proven himself to be a more than capable director. He helmed the very respectable (and damned good) Vacancybut one great little film does not a great director make. Now take into consideration that he’s only directed one other film since Predators and you’ll see that I am not alone in my feelings about Nimrod (and oh boy the urge to pun right there is killing me).
Still, let us take a look at the film over all. Starting with the cast, courtesy of IMDb:
The first three names in the cast list are good solid actors who usually bring a lot to a role. Then further down the list you have the one, the only, Laurence Fishburne (in arguably the best role in the film) and good old Danny Trejo (a Rodriguez favourite). Everyone else on the cast list might not be in the same calibre as the first three actors and Mr Fishburne but they are pretty well-known and more than capable at their chosen craft.
On a side note, hasn’t Mahershala Ali bulked up a lot since his The 4400 days. The man has been putting in some serious overtime at his gym.
The shooting locations were in Hawaii, brilliant choice if I might be allowed to give my humble opinion, with the interiors shot in Rodriguez’s Texas studios (for tax reasons) so the film looked great in terms of location. *I do have to mention that some exterior scenes were shot in Texas as well, so apart from generating the rather alien Bush family, the state can produce some great “alien” looking scenery.*
The story is…functional. In a nutshell the plot is, people are air dropped into a jungle. The people, except for one unfortunate whose chute doesn’t open, are all killers who band together to find out where they are, why they are there, and how to get out. One of them (like the old Sesame Street Shtick, “One of these things is not like the other…”) does not apparently fit into to the little group of murderous professionals, Topher Grace is a doctor and, amazingly, no one questions why he is there. Just goes to show, you do not have to be deep to be a professional killer.
Brody’s character seems to be quite a few jumps ahead of his new colleagues and he figures out very quickly that they are on a “game preserve” and they are the “game.” And therein lies the problem with Predators, the applicable part of the prior statement is “very quickly.”
It’s all too “very quickly” in terms of everything. It is just too fast. Admittedly this makes a better sequel to the Schwarzenegger original than Predator 2, but only just. And only because the action takes place in the jungle with a lot of muscular men (and one woman) with loads of ammo and weapons. But the speed at which the film moves is almost dizzying and it definitely doesn’t allow any time at all for character development.
“Character development?” I hear you cry, it’s an action adventure science fiction film! What character development? I will almost accept that as a trade-off, of course the action and adventure and the science fiction should be first in a film like this, but not at the detriment to the characters portrayed. The original Predator had Schwarzenegger and a load of body building pals in it and they just managed to not be cardboard cut-outs in their roles, so why can’t Predators do the same.
It all revolves around the plot and the “feel” of the film. The original was a movie that started out as a straight forward action feature that suddenly and sharply took a left turn into science fiction land. It worked brilliantly and the pacing was spot on.
Predators never starts out as anything but a science fiction film. From the second that the parachute release mechanism on Brody’s chest starts to flash lights and make beeping noises, we know…it is the future; instant “sci fi” and no mistake about it. But hey, that’s not a problem. It’s still salvageable; they can still make that left turn up ahead, the one that will make this movie great instead of merely good.
But they missed the turn off and instead of veering off into a fascinating new direction, we are given a crazy survivor scene with a plot twist of the predators actually being two species instead of one and they don’t get along. So now we have Larry Fishburne knocking it out of the park as the nutty-as-a-fruitcake survivor who talks to folks who aren’t there and is as deadly as the predators and a great plot device to help our “heroes” get out of Dodge alive.
This all leads into a “twist” to the story that was not a twist at all. It also leads into a “touching moment” and an almost Schwarzenegger ending.
There are a few nods and winks to the original, there is a Hispanic female character, a mini-gun and a “boar like” creature (or more) and it’s set in a jungle. Pretty cool, but it just doesn’t have the panache to make it fun.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do like this film. So much so that I own a DVD of it and still drag it out occasionally to watch. But I don’t love it. If I did, I would own a Blu-ray copy of the film and watch it a lot. Each time I put the film on and watch it, I think the same two things; what if Rodriguez had directed it and I really want someone to say, “Get to the spaceship!”
Way back in 1987 20th Century Fox gave the green light to a science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was to centre around a group of elite special forces who go into Central America to rescue a cabinet minister who has been captured by guerilla forces. Heading up this elite group is Major ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Schwarzenegger) who is not keen on the mission until his old pal Dillon (Carl Weathers) explains the urgency of the situation.
Dutch agrees and his team plus Dillon head for the country where the diplomat is being held hostage. Once they arrive, the team find evidence that someone else has been there before them and that this ‘other’ team was murdered and hung like animals ready to be butchered. As they head out toward the rebel camp, Dutch’s men are becoming increasingly aware that something is not right.
Arriving at the rebel camp in time to see one of the hostages being executed, Dutch’s team over-run the camp and kill all the rebels but one. Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) is taken prisoner at Dillon’s insistence and Dutch calls for extraction from the camp only to be told the area is “too hot” and that they need to move to a safer area.
Dutch who has now realised that Dillon lied to him about the real purpose of the mission puts him in charge of the prisoner. The men re-group and head for the new extraction point, all while they are being observed from a distance via thermal imaging.
Billy (Sonny Landham) takes point and he becomes increasingly aware that something is not right about the area and that they are not alone in the jungle. While Billy looks for this other inhabitant of the jungle Anna attempts to escape and two of Dutch’s men are killed by an invisible creature. This signifies the shift of focus of the film and it soon becomes a cat and mouse battle between Dutch’s men and the mysterious creature who is killing them off.
This film grossed over 98 million dollars on its theatrical release. It has continued to do well in the home entertainment market. It has spawned a franchise of sequels and prequels that have all done well at the box office.
The film was originally written for Sylvester Stallone, but after Fox got hold of the script and put Joel Silver in charge of production, the rest is history. This film was the first I’d ever seen that shifted genre a third of the way into the film. With Arnie fresh off of Commando and with an initial ‘special forces” set up, it looked to be a sort of Commando II.
Predator is a film that scored quite a few first’s and is well-known for a number of things. Firstly Jean-Claude Van Damme had originally been hired to portray the creature. Unfortunately the original predator suit (pre Stan Winston) was uncomfortable, clumsy and according to Van Damme, not safe to use. He quit after two days and in the interim, according to Van Damme, the guy the studio hired after he quit was injured in the ‘original suit.’
Once Stan ‘the man’ Winstone redesigned the suit, the late Kevin Peter Hall (May 9, 1955 – April 10, 1991) donned it and despite the fact that he could not see during the one-to-one fights with Arnie did not experience any problems. Incidentally Hall played one of the helicopter pilots at the end of the film, effectively rescuing Arnie from the destruction that Hall himself, as the creature, had caused.
The film marked the screen debut of Jesse Ventura and Shane Black. Ventura would go on to become Governor of Minnesota and Black has just finished the screenplay for Iron Man 3 and is working on Lethal Weapon 5.
The minigun, which had been purposely purchased for use in the film, did not work. More commonly attached to helicopters, the gun was a remnant of the Vietnam war. It had to be stripped, cleaned and a lot of the parts had to be remade from scratch. Of course further modifications were needed to make the weapon a ‘hand-held’ instead of a mounted gun. The weapon was also powered electrically by battery. The cable ran down Jesse Ventura’s (Blain) leg. It was also modified to use blank rounds and the firing rate had to be slowed down.
Actor Sonny Landham was a porn ‘star’ in the 1970’s and crossed over to mainstream films via a bit part as a cop in The Warriors. A bit of a ‘wild child’ Sonny was well-known for getting into bar fights and having a bit of a temper. The studio brass hired a bodyguard for the set of Predator to protect the cast from Sonny during filming.
It was this film that has Arnie shouting that oft-repeated and mimicked line, “Get to the Choppah!” If you can’t sound like Arnie when you shout it, you might as well give up. Almost anybody can imitate Arnie when shouting this one.
Just a bit of ‘retro’ reviewing fun and another look at an old favorite film. One that has the distinction of having Jean-Claude Van Damme, a porn star and Arnold Schwarzenegger all together.
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