Way back when, when Predators was nothing but a buzz-inducing credit on IMDB, I made a bizarre wager with a fellow film student. I said that if Predators killed Alice Braga's character I'd raise its rating by one, and if it didn't then I'd lower it it by one. Rather then an act of impotent misogynistic rage or a veiled attack on the Brazilian people, who continue to astound the world with their charm year to year, it was a more a test of cinematic unpredictability and the faith that Predators wouldn't be a generic reboot of what we've seen before, and that maybe those fanboys on the IMDB comments section were right, and this would be a sleeper hit both in terms of finance and quality.
Well at least one of those parameters made good. Predators isn't a bad film, and as a lifelong fan of movies where characters get killed off one by one, there's fun to be had here if you're predisposed to this kind of thing. But its generic, a little lifeless and most crucially devoid of any kind of atmosphere of tension or dread. The thing that made the first film work a little better then it had any right to, and even in spite of featuring a cast of muscle-men who couldn't really act (and SHANE BLACK!) . Predators just goes through the motions really, and in spite of a couple of interesting performances there's no investment in what goes on here, and unfortunately a movie like this lives or dies on its atmosphere.
Despite what Brodygate 2010 may have told you, Brody is more interesting then you're average action hero and is arguably the film's greatest asset, even with Christian Bale growling. In a role that would have disappeared into the woodwork with someone like Gerard Butler or Jason Statham, he gives a performance that goes beyond flat action hero line-readings. I liked him here. The Shield's Walton Goggins is clearly having a good time and after his astounding work on The Shield and Justified, appears to enjoy playing a wafer thin southern hick rapist stereotype immensely. He's having the most fun out of anyone in the cast and that is a little infectious. Laurence Fishbourne seemed to have popped acid before the cameras rolled here, in a role that's as cynical as fuck. Deliver your exposition and then fuck off back to CSI please Morpheus. Topher Grace seems to have polarized reviewers of this film, some appreciating the comic relief and some saying that he takes you out of the movie. I think a bit of both perhaps, although I liked the performance and Grace arguably gets the most memorable and effective scene in Predators. As for everyone else, its a game of choose your ineffectual continental stereotype really.
So to the issue of Braga. SPOILER ALERT for the gullible. The reason I wanted her to die frankly was so the movie would have something more vital to call its own. Any other sort of break from generality would have done too I guess. Call it the Pitch Black paradigm, that movie was strong in its own right, but by simply allowing a few people to survive who you didn't expect and killing someone you'd never expect it kind of made itself a mini genre classic, whereas Predators lacks the balls. Braga makes it out after a couple of fake outs, which makes it even more irritating to be honest, and any chance of Predators being more then a pub quiz afterthought vanish with its own spinelessness (no pun intended). So yeah a fun two hours for the unassuming, but for me a cowardly and frankly kind of boring disappointment.