Inception (2010)

The lucid dreamer in me wants to hate Christopher Nolan’s Inception. My own dreams, since you asked, tend to revolve around mastering flight, and then impressing girls with it. Were I to encounter Leonardo DiCaprio in said dream, I would show him exactly how high I can go (this goes double for Ellen Page and quadruple for Marion Cotillard), and probably give some game away, as I’ve just done here. But the dreaming in Inception, prevalent though it is, is primarily a cipher for questions of illusion, identity and reality. There are no rabbits who talk with the voice of one’s dad to be found here.

This is, of course, the plot’s main conceit – Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) specialise in the extraction of information from the dreams of their marks, and the construction of unassuming dreamscapes is part of the job. When energy mogul Saito (Ken Watanabe) contracts them to perform an “inception”, that is, to plant a single idea in the mind of another, things become complicated. Assembling a ragtag heist team, consisting of a dream architect Ariadne (Page), subconscious forger Eames (Tom Hardy) and sedatives expert Yusuf (Dileep Rao), the extractors embark on a dream-within-a-dream-to-the-power-of-x inside the mind of Cillian Murphy.

What proceeds is chiefly an action-thriller, with some brilliant set-pieces emerging from the film’s core ideas. The premise that the body’s movement in the real world affects the physics of the dream world is consistently applied with remarkable (and oft remarked upon) results. More notable, in my opinion, are the projections that populate these dreams – as Cobb describes them, “white blood cells”, which act to censor the foreign presences in the dreamer’s mind. Indeed, it might be argued that this psychological aspect of Nolan’s dream-world is underplayed, in favour of the reductive body-is-moving/camera-is-shaking spectacles. Further, the concept of warped dream architecture, supposedly Ellen Page’s specialty, takes a backseat to the proceedings but for one comic interlude.

But the sinister nature of these projections and illusions are incorporated into the film’s emotional drive, in the figure of Cobb’s deceased wife Mal. I’ll admit to being dazzled, as always, by Marion Cotillard throughout this film. She was the best thing in Public Enemies, the only good thing in Nine, and continues to exude an otherworldly, European-film radiance that makes my commenting on her performance irrevocably compromised. But her character is guilty of cinema’s cardinal sin. Citing Shutter Island, The Departed and Romeo and Juliet as precedents, I’d warn all fictional women that under no circumstances should you engage in a romance with Leonardo DiCaprio. Seriously. It just ends in tears. We at Schlock Footage are beginning to suspect that Titanic was an inside job.

Leonardo Bluebeard’s agenda aside, Inception is notable, in true Nolan style, for its treatment of well-formed characters and their reaction to the impossible. There are bumps, however, and in a film as big as this they’re bound to crop up. Cobb’s backup Arthur, despite Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s precise take on the character and his role in the plot’s heist mechanics, is arguably undeveloped by the script. At times the scenes are (necessarily) exposition-heavy, bordering on goofy slingshot-around-the-sun analogies. Of course, Nolan incorporates a complex set of rules into his standalone narrative, follows them thoroughly, and accomplishes technobabble in probably the most succinct way possible. There are some sequences of gratuitous violence (narratively, not morally), and there is a sense that some scenes could be compacted without hurting the plot, such as those revolving around Cillian Murphy’s godfather (Tom Berenger).

But, while Inception is imperfect, it is no doubt destined to be a classic. Few films display such an exploration of original ideas, Nolan’s mastery of setting and composition, or the unforgettable series of images produced by modern special effects. This spectacle is grounded by strong performances, a sensitive treatment of memory and fantasy, and an uncanny handling of time, space and sound. You don’t need me to tell you to see this film. See you in the stratosphere with an anonymous redhead.



Classics: INLAND EMPIRE (2006)

“Were you, in fact, seeing another man?”

– A Rabbit

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but David Lynch certainly does not. At the ontological boundary between two bodies, two worlds and two minds, reality warps and fragments are scattered, falling where they may. And in Lynch’s oeuvre, this boundary is a vacuum, because the pieces fall without friction and land in bizarre formations. This is particularly true of his 2006 magnum opus Inland Empire – shot on digital video, with scripts reworked frequently, an amalgam of 4 decades of Lynchian symbolism, the arrangement of elements is nothing short of disconcerting. It is to the auteur and his diligent audience to make sense of the tea leaves, to know the pieces as they’ve fallen, and to wonder at their origins.

Lynch compatriot Laura Dern is the film’s foundation, inhabiting multiple roles, each a refraction of the other. As actress Nikki Grace she is a serene, soft-spoken cipher of a woman, eager to inhabit the role of middle-class adulteress Susan Blue in the film “On High in Blue Tomorrows”. As she clothes herself in the role, playing off of Justin Theroux’s confident Devon, even venturing an off-screen affair with him, the narrative fractures – Dern is flung between sets and roles, spaces and times, each fragment of her circling themes of jealousy, marriage, sexuality and revenge.

Against the Oscar-bait romance of “Blue Tomorrows”, her tenure as Susan Blue is pained and bitter, dwelling on her infidelity to her husband (Peter J Lucas, as Nikki Grace’s Piotrek and Susan Blue’s Smithy). As the film’s psychosis deepens, aspects of the film “Vier, Sieben” (of which “Blue Tomorrows” is a remake) are interspersed – its romantic leads (Julia Ormond and a moustachioed Peter J Lucas) are murdered. Other, ostensibly unrelated passages appear, including prolonged instances of foulmouthed psychoanalytic confessions by Dern, and open-air set pieces in the California’s Inland Empire region (yes, it’s a place).

Now, this is all supposedly stems from a curse, embedded in the gypsy folk tale to which “Vier, Sieben” and “Blue Tomorrows” are beholden. But the pacing of the film, in which the narrative break occurs at the instant of infidelity, might suggest that this ‘curse’, this ‘something inside the story’ is some kind of trauma, perhaps common to all romances of this type. To suggest that all love stories are born of, and remain in proximity to, a nightmarish kernel of desperation and fear is perhaps not a total stretch to those who have lived them. Nikki Grace’s breakdown of identity, and therefore of embodiment and sexuality, is a fractious, multifaceted exploration of this desperation. “The world’s longest running radio play” is, perhaps reductively, love and betrayal.

This is, of course, classic David Lynch territory. Romantic obsession and violent jealousy haunt his entire filmic output, from Isabella Rossellini’s manic depressive turn as Dorothy Vallens in Blue Velvet, to Naomi Watts’ sublimely broken Diane Selwyn in Mulholland Drive. Even Lost Highway’s Bill Pullman couldn’t escape his obsession, and he spent half the film as Balthazar fucking Getty. This is Lynch’s vacuum – prostitutes lit by torchlight, telling you everything you’ve done wrong before doing the Locomotion (to the sound of distorted train whistles, of course).

This harem of prostitutes is a relatively tame figure in Inland Empire. The film is a primer of Lynchian symbolism – red curtains, transitional blue light, shorting lamps, doubling upon doubling, deformed jump-scare faces and groovy furniture, among others. Its most notable addition to the corpus is, of course, those darned rabbits – three figures (voiced by Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Scott Coffey, all three featured in Mulholland Drive) that inhabit a (green) “red room” where time and language are out of joint. And in this film, that’s saying something. At least one of these rabbits plays a decisive role in Laura Dern’s path of self-discovery, wearing the aspect of her analyst. Elsewhere, the film is populated by your typical sideways-talking, nominally pointless, possibly prophetic Lynchian characters, and the austere Lost Girl (Karolina Gruszka), whose relation the proceedings is both impossibly obscure and undeniably crucial.

It seems that, in Lynch’s world, Laura Dern always gets her happy ending. With the possible exception of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, it would appear that the only means by which a Lynch film ends well is the harmonising presence of Sandy Williams or Lula Fortune. Dern in Inland Empire is both these women and their neo-realistic undersides, gazing at herself through the miracle of creative editing, facing up to the Phantom that stalks her three-hour nightmare (Krzysztof Majchrzak who, in his final appearance will haunt your nightmares too) and wringing an impossible, uncannily happy ending.

Classics: El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973)

Human beings are narrative creatures. From memory to history to story, the drive to take impressions and twist them ‘til they cohere is one of the strongest known to us. And the most common form of narrative, as you know, is the linear one, championed by Hollywood since time immemorial; beginning-middle-end, setup-challenge-climax, coke-choc-top-popcorn.

So when we first encounter a film like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s twin classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain, whose narratives twist like Moebius strips, the impulse is to cry “Surreal!” – at worst, to scratch our heads, at best, to ‘switch off’ and enjoy the show. But, despite the box office, narratives come in all shapes and sizes, and ‘surreal’ is not a dirty word. Nor is it strictly accurate, in Jodorowsky’s case – though filled to the brim with beautiful, absurd imagery, both his classics display an uncanny mastery of storytelling.

El Topo

“The mole digs tunnels under the earth, looking for the sun. Sometimes, he gets to the surface. When he sees the sun, he is blinded.”

1970’s El Topo, one of the hallmarks of the Ben Barenholtz’ ‘midnight movies’ phenomena alongside David Lynch’s Eraserhead, is a cowboy movie, a comedy and a tale of Zen enlightenment. El Topo (played by Jodorowsky), son in tow, stumbles upon a pillaged homestead. He dispatches the culprits – first three perverted hombres, then the corpulent Colonel and his bodyguards – rescuing a woman in the process (Mara Lorenzio, later named ‘Mara’ in the film). Mara urges El Topo to earn her love by killing four gun masters. El Topo proceeds to abandon his son, kill each gunman through deceit, and get shot by a rival gunwoman (short version).

El Topo awakes a changed man, beneath the earth, where dwarves and amputees dwell. He travels to the city, raising money for dynamite, so that he may release his comrades trapped underground. With the help of his now-grown son (Robert John), El Topo releases his mole-people, who are promptly murdered by the townfolk. Distraught, El Topo immolates himself. The Son, with El Topo’s pregnant lover in tow, departs for the desert.

The parallel, intersecting and circular paths of El Topo and his Son are the narrative backbone of this film. The cowboy’s first words are to his child, “You are seven years old. You are a man.” are not simply an odd injunction from some harsh logic. The director-protagonist is addressing the seven-year-old Son and the man, El Topo. The command that follows, “Bury your first toy and your mother’s picture” will mirror the film’s first act, in which El Topo, through duelling perverts and megalomaniacs, rids himself of emotional baggage on his path towards enlightenment. Though the cowboy opts for trickery and cheating to defeat the gunmen, his folly becomes clear when he is betrayed by his femme fatale rival. His quest as an enlightened man is overwhelmed by the cruelty and avarice of the city, while the abandoned Son, cleansed by life as a monk, takes on the mantle of his father and departs, presumably to repeat the events of El Topo ad infinitum.

What is the significance of this twin narrative, whereby the Son is betrayed but cleansed, and the father becomes enlightened but is then driven to despair? Jodorowsky, for all his allusions to mysticism, theology and surrealism, has crafted an eminently human tale of life, legacy and faith. For each decline there is ascension, and the Father/Son, through the circular narrative, experiences both at once. The endless cycle of births, the Son riding into the sunset, at once repeats and subverts mortality and disillusionment. The film’s iconic imagery, a unique blend of religion, symbolism and the spaghetti western, is deployed in service of this heartfelt narrative.

The Holy Mountain

“You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold.”

1973 furthers Jodorowsky’s treatise on love, art and enlightenment. It’s also a total mindfuck. But, as with El Topo, this seemingly surreal venture can be understood in terms of its deliberate departures from (though not absences of) narrative, another triumph of hyper-real storytelling.

A Christ-like figure called the Thief, through a series of misadventures, arrives at the tower of the Alchemist (Jodorowsky, again). The Thief’s story, a jumble of gospel lore and critique of modern society, comprises the first half-hour of the film. The real mind-blow, following the Thief’s induction by the Alchemist, is that this messianic figure is but one of eight apprentices, each designated by their own planet, whose goal is to find immortality at the peak of the Holy Mountain.

All of the apprentices’ life stories, depicting bizarre, stylised versions of Earth, are unique in that they revise the notion of the messianic figure. Opposed to the Thief, these heroes are ambivalent titans of industry, weirdly Oedipal politicians and military juggernauts. This is most clear in a scene where, on their path to enlightenment, the heroes are asked to burn their money in a fire. Nothing so special, except that when it comes time for the Thief to burn his, he only has a few measly dollars, and he is laughed at. The Thief (whose planet is presumably Earth) is an essentially human character, and carries the audience’s empathy through what is a complex, often sensational series of events.

Holy Mountain echoes the themes of El Topo in one crucial scene towards the film’s end. The apprentices, enduring the trials of the Holy Mountain, are followed by the Thief’s lover (and her monkey). In the film’s penultimate scene, the Alchemist, moved by this display of love, releases the Thief from his charge, to return to the world as a mortal and enjoy his life. The remaining eight apprentices reach the summit, and find immortality to be a sham, as the Holy Mountain is, in fact, a film. The film’s rich, oftentimes cruel heroes are freed from the bonds of narrative, but the Thief is allowed to return, without this knowledge, to continue the cycle of love, life and storytelling.

Who is the winner in that situation? I can’t say.

While El Topo is a stronger narrative film, Holy Mountain is an expanded treatise on similar themes. The two are best seen together for the full experience. But my advice to viewers is not to presume that, since the films are commonly called surrealist, that they are by any means unintelligible. Jodorowsky is one alchemist of a storyteller, and his films offer a wealth of interpretations. Highly recommended.

Get Him to the Greek (2010)

In a semi-sequel to 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, earnest music industry gofer Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is charged with transporting Russell Brand-esque cock-rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) from London to Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. Directed by Marshall’s Nick Stoller and produced by Judd Apatow, this is a film that far exceeds expectations, both a pulse-pounding comedy and pitch-perfect character piece. In the vein of Apatow’s Walk Hard, Greek lampoons the absurdities of excess, the fickle back-flips of the celebrity sphere and the calculating madness of star and schlub alike.

Performances are uniformly superb. Jonah Hill continues his run as the break-out member of Apatow’s Brat Pack, having shined from his debut in I Heart Huckabees, through side parts in Knocked-Up and Walk Hard, and as headliner in 2008’s Superbad. Here, Hill brings rounded warmth to his role as Green, a twenty-something who loves his Mars Volta but harbours a fanboy leaning towards Snow and his band, Infant Sorrow.

Contrasted with Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs’ music exec Sergio Roma (in which Combs makes Dave Chappelle’s parody of him a distant memory), Green’s love of music is decidedly analogue. We’re talking cassette bootlegs, worn posters and reunion concerts. This kind of medium fetish is how many a nine-to-five schlub holds onto their youthful fire, and Hill channels that fire with very endearing results. It’s the memory of Infant Sorrow, selling out at the Greek a decade before (oddly locating their peak within the late nineties?) that drives Hill to rehabilitate his hero.

Not that the hero won’t put up a fight. Russell Brand proves his worth as a leading man (though who can guess as to his range) in Aldous Snow’s self-immolating, eye-of-the-storm sprint from start to finish. From the film’s vicious lampoon of ham-handed Bono-esque sentiment (Snow’s last album ‘African Child’ deemed “The worst thing to hit Africa since Apartheid”) to the tabloid rush of TMZ and Today show trainwrecking, Brand certainly nails the paranoid-schizophrenic scattering of elements with ease. Falling off the wagon and losing his soul mate Jackie Q (Rose Byrne, and who can’t say they’re still reeling from the Rosebyrne), Snow is exactly where you expect him to be – he’s everywhere at once. Brand hits every note, from playboy to man-child to tortured soul, and lifts his character from a one-note joke to an enduring, if slippery, human being.

Elsewhere, the cast is rounded by every actor you’ve ever heard of, and the intertext-buzz never fails to register. As mentioned, Sean Combs chews the scenery like a shark, and the film’s world is populated by, among others, by Pink, Pharrell, economist Paul Krugman (!!) and Lars Ulrich in precise, consistently awesome cameos. Kristen Bell returns and Kristen Schaal sparks, both briefly.

There are only two slips of note. First, after one’s Trekkie-swooning subsides, Colm Meaney’s role as Aldous Snow’s father comes across as somewhat underdeveloped. Secondly, Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, as Aaron’s girlfriend, displays an odd turn of character in the film’s late second act. Of course in both cases, these slips can be forgiven, as they ground two of the film’s most entertaining sequences. The image of Russell Brand swooping into your marital bed like a bald eagle is enough to inspire symphonies.

Finally, as Greek is essentially a twitterati’s Walk Hard, a word on the score. The film’s payoff, in which (let’s face it, you know this already) Snow gets got where he’s going, is perhaps Greek’s slowest point. This is because the Infant Sorrow songs, while offering a prima facie parody of your average cock rock classics, are far more one-note comedy than the rest of the film, and definitely less enduring than Dewey Cox’s back catalogue. Of course, this film is less about the music, and more about the peculiar souls in, around and shoved up it. Get Him to the Greek never fails to entertain, and stands as one of 2010’s standout comedies.


Toy Story 3 (2010)

Pixar Studios have that sadistic knack for wielding genuine, heartfelt emotion as if it were a lightweight magic axe. It looks effortless, but then it’s hard to tell, since your head’s been lopped off and landed somewhere near your eight-year-old self. The angle is awkward, the view impaired, and your own eight-year-old cries ring in your ears. Your adult hands desperately crack away at the keys, to herald the rule of the digital kings. How do these toys  (or, for that matter, those fish, those rats, those monsters and those superheroes) manage to take our inner child hostage?

This is my guess, and it relies a little bit on something called “object-relations theory”. Because I think it’s significant that the first big-budget CGI film centres around toys, whose sole reason for being is to foster the imaginings and development of a child.

The third film opens in a panoramic, Old-West style sequence, in which Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) outwit the kingpins of their rogue’s gallery. The whole sequence is overblown, gratuitous, and extremely effective, in its call-backs to the preceding films and transition to home video footage of Andy himself pulling the strings as a hyperactive, imaginative young boy.

If Toy Story 3 makes one thing clear, it’s that the heroes of the trilogy, despite their self-awareness, have always owed their existence and identities to this kid. Contrast their identities at “playtime” with their “real” ones – heroic Woody becomes a well-rounded leader, professional Buzz is kind of a stickler, arch-villains Potato Head and Hamm are, well, kind of douchebags. The thing about these films has never been that toys ‘have a life of their own’. It’s that, without their kid, they don’t, and neither do we without them.

A psychoanalyst of the mid-20th century named DW Winnicott had a few things to say on the role of fantasy and play. Having been babies, you’ll all no doubt remember those confusing years before inner and outer, me and not-me, subject and object were clearly separated. You no doubt relied, Winnicott would say, on “intermediate areas of experience”, sucking on a blanket to pretend it was a breast etc. That blanket, or teddy, or cowboy doll is called a “transitional object”, because through play the child is able to mediate his inner and outer realities.

The key lesson for us crying, shitting babies to learn is that the “the world is something outside [our] omnipotent control but is also something shareable” – in short, the social and cognitive foundations of our own minds are lain by participating in play. Later, when the basics are more or less covered, we rely less and less on imaginative play, but we never forget its deep appeal. It re-emerges in cinema, particularly animated cinema, particularly Pixar animated cinema revolving around toys at playtime.

So the large-scale ‘playtime’ that occurs in the 2nd and 3rd acts of Toy Story 3 – from that of the paranoid-schizophrenic toddlers in Sunnyside Daycare, to the perfectly-pitched exchange between Andy and adorable Bonnie, to the ‘hands-free’ playtime of Pixar technicians in between – we are treated over and over to the simple pleasures of artistic play. You could say this drives the narratives of The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Wall-E and the sum of Pixar’s short films – the sheer thrill of moving figures in imaginary spaces, imagining what can happen and marvelling when it does.


Predators (2010): Supplemental

Edited highlights from Ashley Hodgkin’s supplementary review of Predators.

  • On the film’s  plot – “Predators skimmed over the top of almost every topic it introduced – particularly the part about each character being specifically chosen because of their variety of combat skills. All I saw were a group of people who could empty their clips when startled, and release adrenaline when running. Hell, I can do that.”
  • On Laurence Fishburne’s wisdom – “His cameo adds nothing of substance to the plotline except for providing some (inconsistent) facts about the Predators. I took note that the titular beasties travel in three and are intelligent, before nodding off for a brief moment. When I woke, Morpheus is shouting (I shit you not) “This is MY house, motherfuckers!” and our heroes are running for their lives from what I swear were more than three Predators.”
  • On the almighty Predator(s) – “As the cast are picked off one by one I am not shown the stellar predatory skills which I’m led to believe exist. Then there’s a bear trap. I thought these guys were conniving and super smart, where’d this vintage bear trap come from?”
  • On Adrien Brody’s story arc – “The main character that we all assumed was an arse, surprises us by not really being an arse! Praise the lord. Now there’s a half-decent human-on-alien scene with a bit of variation to the good ol’ Arnie covered in mud. Then we’re treated with a heroes at dawn shot.”
  • Final thoughts – “When I first saw Predator I knew it was a top film, and I was hoping Predators might’ve been something in the same vein. Turns out I was hoping for the wrong thing. What I should’ve been praying for was that the writers wouldn’t try and distract me from the shallow storyline with mediocre action scenes. There’s no depth to this film; the best action films are intelligently designed, even those classics with the least to say. Maybe I’m still swooning over Toy Story 3, a film not half as plastic and wooden as this one.”

Predators (2010)

It’s apparently not that hard to fuck up a Predator movie. They’ve been doing it now for nigh on two decades. Despite having an almost unimpeachable template – 1987’s Predator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger discovers the joys of colonialism through blackface – subsequent attempts to replicate the formula have been marred by lack of tension, off-beat plotting and, well, being the Alien vs. Predator movies. That charming cocktail of action, B-movie junk and tastefully discrete sci-fi has yet to be recreated, even in the most sterilised, controlled conditions of the summer blockbuster.

Enter schlockmeister Robert Rodriguez, delivering what might be described as a leaner, more competitive Predator film for these trying economic times. We’re back in the rainforest, and a cadre of ethnically diverse, stoically gruff soldiers are being picked off one-by-one by an unseen enemy. Eventually, a shirtless Adrien Brody (the critically-acclaimed star of Tori Amos’ A Sorta Fairytale music video from 2002) will throw down with the biggest of the bad, perhaps (spoiler alert!) by screwing with its thermal vision.

In fairness, Predators can be said to have the most in common with the film we all fondly remember. But it still falls short of fondness, for two reasons – first, the noble impulse to strip away all the unnecessaries leads to the searing of some important elements. Secondly, it also has a lot in common with some other films, not so fondly remembered, and mentioned above.

The characters of Predators are plucked from their lives and deposited (read: dropped) onto a lush alien wilderness, one strangely bereft of alien plant and animal life. They’ve never met each other, and naturally, some Cube-esque paranoid hilarity ensues. Adrien Brody just wants to go it alone! Danny Trejo won’t share his guns with Walton Goggins! Topher Grace can calculate prime numbers in his head! This game theory stuff, specifically ‘big game’ theory, is not in itself a bad idea, potentially suited to a low-budget classic like, say, Cube. But with an enemy as firmly established as the frigging Predator, that kind of tension just can’t manifest.

Add to that the fact that this film’s Predators manifestly fail to do anything memorable whatsoever. Go ahead, try and recall a high point. One sets the sniper trap from Full Metal Jacket. Another battles our resident Yakuza, who brandishes a katana, in swaying moonlit grass. Rodriguez, I know what you’re doing.  Stop it. And there is a battle between two predators, which sounds cool, right? I guess if you like bar fights, then… maybe? Because that’s all that happens. Two acrobatic, kitted-up war machines go toe to toe, and proceed to bump into each other for five minutes.

This is what happens when you pluralise the antagonist – you run the risk of turning them into a faceless mob jogging down a hallway. This worked, of course, in Aliens, when thousands of insectoid killing machines swarmed down a hallway. But the ‘s’ in Predators denotes about five guys, hanging out in the woods. You couldn’t have had them swarming – though then again you might’ve said that about the Alien in 1979 – but, with a team of extraterrestrial hunters, is it too much to ask for a bit of teamwork?

And let’s not forget the premise of the aforementioned fight sequence, the tension-destroying human/predator team-up. Because, as we all know from the vaunted AvP franchise, not only can Predators understand human beings but, given the chance, they’re pretty reasonable dudes. This is not an ‘edgy’ direction for your narrative to take, it’s political correctness, and it’s not the self-consciously racist, sexist, racist B-movie that is demanded from Robert Rodriguez or the Predator franchise.

Anyway, go see this film, especially if you sat through all the others – you’ll smell the improvement from a mile off. Brody is actually pretty swell as gravelly action hero, and the film’s climactic fight (essentially the inverse of the classic Schwarzenegger showdown) holds your attention. The supporting cast work well with what they’re given.

And finally, Predators is worth watching for a hilariously unnecessary exchange between Brody and Alice Braga, in which she has the gall to suggest that, hey, maybe we could be considered the predators, you know? A mind-blowing insight you could only gleam from that cathartic moment. Or maybe by watching the original Predator.