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Entries in Adrien Brody (2)

Friday
Jul092010

Predators

The Predator is one of the most iconic creatures in science fiction history. Show a picture of it and even those who haven’t yet met it call it by name. On the page, the Predator has battled with Batman, Superman, the Terminator and even Judge Dredd. It has starred in two full length video games facing off against the beasts from Ridley Scott’s Alien. But it began its killing spree on film in 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite a bad sequel (Predator 2) and two abysmal crossover films (Alien vs. Predator, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem), the Predator has stuck around based solely off the strength of the original film. The creature’s lasting ability is telling. Now, finally, after 23 years we have a sequel fit to carry on the legacy in Predators.

At the beginning of the film, we meet Royce (Adrien Brody) who is free-falling in mid-sleep. Luckily, he wakes up and is able to open his parachute, though he does so a little too late and lands with a thud in the middle of a jungle. On the ground he runs into seven other survivors, including Edwin (Topher Grace), Isabelle (Alice Braga), Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Stans (Walter Goggins), Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali). None of them know how or why they got there and only remember seeing a light before passing out. Forced to work together, they head off to seek answers, but realize none are to be found when they run into the Predators.

Much like the transition from Alien to Aliens, Predators is less a cold, calculated study on terror and more an action movie extravaganza. While Predator wasn’t exactly a horror show, it nevertheless took its time to build suspense and flesh out its characters. This time around it's run and gun. Plus, there was only one creature. Here, there are many. Rather than the scary thought that they could be lurking anywhere, you know from the get-go that they are everywhere.

It doesn’t quite have the same effect as the original, but it doesn’t intend to. Director Nimród Antal seems to be having quite a deal of fun delivering mindless action and the inherent cheesiness of classic action hero one-liners. The only two previous films of note to Antal’s name are the thriller Vacancy and the action picture Armored, both of which lacked the thrills and excitement required from their respective genres. However, he seems to have refined his craft and delivers well staged action scenes complete with both aforementioned traits, even if they do come off as a bit derivative.

Truth be told, this is another one of those “dumb fun” action pictures that have been flooding our screens lately. It isn’t nearly as refined as the original and fails to live up to the quality expected of a summer tent-pole release. In this instance, it’s because of the mediocre writing and some questionable casting. Topher Grace as the comic relief aside, Adrien Brody doesn’t fit comfortably in the role of the tough guy archetype. He spouts tough guy phrases, stands in tough guy positions and talks in a tough guy whisper, but the tough guy persona still seems missing, especially considering he’s working opposite renowned tough guy Danny Trejo.

It's a problem because Predators hinges on its actors and action due to a lackluster story. Outside of the kills, it’s impossible to spoil this movie because nothing really happens. The characters run around the jungle and come into contact with some Predators, some from both factions are killed and then it ends. Somewhere within all of that, the film fits in an assortment of clichés that really drag down the experience, like when one character pulls out a picture of his children to show the group, thus sealing his fate, and a silly, random swordfight between a human and a Predator that, for all intents and purposes, ends in a draw.

Predators isn’t going to change the way we look at action movies, nor is it going to bring a choir of praise as the original did, but it provides a fun, swift adrenaline kick that will surely be appreciated by moviegoers. It may not match the 1987 classic, but it’s certainly the best since.

Predators receives 3/5

Friday
Jun042010

Splice

When one thinks of the science fiction genre, many greats come to mind—2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Moon—but only a select few can truly call themselves scary. While not necessary to be effective, science fiction films are able to deliver more chills and thrills than the typical horror movie when done correctly, yet that breed of sci-fi is hard to come by. Not since 1979’s Alien has a genre film shown as much promise as Splice, the newest picture from Vincenzo Natali, the director of the cult hit Cube, but whereas Alien began with a sense of dread and carried it through to the end, Splice starts strong and then goes berserk from a number of insane plot turns that strip it of the tension it would have had otherwise.

The film stars Adrien Brody as Clive and Sarah Polley as Elsa, a pair of biochemists who are also in a romantic relationship. They’ve recently created a new organism by splicing together a number of different animal genes. The creature resembles more a gelatinous blob than an actual living thing, but nevertheless it is a scientific breakthrough. However, as any good scientist would do, they start to look towards the future in an attempt to take the next step, splicing those animal genes with human genes. Shockingly, the experiment works and the next thing they know they have a living, breathing animal/human hybrid that feels and thinks and learns.

But as anybody who has seen a similar movie will tell you, playing God never works out. As is expected, Splice is heavy on message, exploring the dangers of scientific gene splicing and creating life that was never intended to be. All creatures on this planet are here because they can forge for themselves and have adapted to their environments, so naturally creating an entirely new species has its drawbacks. Despite its familiarity, the theme was interesting, but as it went on, it wandered off course.

This downfall is characteristic of the entire movie, in fact. As the lights dimmed and Splice began, I found myself in awe. Was I finally seeing the creepy, intelligent science fiction film I had been waiting for? It appeared so. It was subtle. It was moody. It was spooky without resorting to cheap jump scares. The creature was unpredictable. The relationship between the two leads was believable and the quarrels they had due to differing opinions rang true. This was a masterpiece of science fiction filmmaking.

But about halfway through, something strange happened. That feeling disappeared and the inanity of the plot took over. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat, I was slumping over it laughing at the stupidity of it all.

In all fairness, the second half isn’t bad, but it doesn’t fit the brooding beginning. Both parts work on their own terms, but don’t work together so my amazement and excitement quickly turned to disappointment and loathing. I began to hate Splice if only for not realizing its own potential.

I hesitate to go on because I fear I may ruin the surprises in store for anybody who happens to see this film. They’re real howlers and must be seen to be believed. When you don’t think it can get any crazier, the filmmaker throws a curveball resetting the rules of what you can expect to happen. Equal parts creepy sci-fi and campy B-movie, Splice is a mixed bag. My feelings are still battling it out in an attempt to decide whether or not I even like the movie, but when all is said and done, the fact remains that it’s a hodgepodge of blunders and missteps. It's worth a viewing, but once the shock wears off, you'll realize there's no reason to ever view it again.

Splice receives 2.5/5