Director: Nimród Antal
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali
Perhaps 1987 wouldn’t feel like ages ago had Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem not supplanted the iconic Predator and stuck the alien hunter in faintly mediocre and all-around poorly made films. It’s been over two decades since John McTiernan delivered Predator and while it’s hard to say Predators was worth the wait, it is far more enjoyable and well crafted than the aforementioned sequels. Don’t go into Predators expecting much more than your average bloody, fire-powered action film, and it’ll be worth your while.
Imagine waking up mid freefall. Scary, right? Now imagine waking up mid freefall only to be plummeting into a game preserve in which you’re the game. That’s exactly what happens to Royce, Isabelle, Edwin, Stans, Nikolai, Cuchillo, Hanzo, Mombasa (Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) and one poor guy whose chute never opens. Upon landing, disorientation quickly wears off as they meet each other one-by-one and realize they’re in some serious trouble. After being ambushed by a pack of horned dog-like creatures, it becomes clear to Royce that not only are they being hunted, but they were abducted and brought to this new planet for having been predators on Earth.
Everyone is a trained killer – Royce a military man turned mercenary, Isabelle a Special Ops assassin, Stans a serial killer, Nicolai a Russian Special Forces soldier, Cuchillo a drug cartel, Hanzo a Yakuza assassin and Mombasa an ex-Sierra Leone death squad officer – everyone except Edwin who’s a doctor. Even with their deadly instincts and wide variety of weaponry, the group seemingly doesn’t stand a chance against not one, but three Predators.
The film starts with a bang; well, that and a hard fall. Right after the players recover from the drop, they swoop right into action, heading out into the forest with zero knowledge of where they are or what they’re up against. The intensely slow build up to their enemies’ reveal is tortuous in a fantastic way. Tension is high as the characters begin to piece together and understand their situation during which one meets his end in an eerie manner and the group gets their first glimpse of an otherworldly skyline.
Unfortunately, from there, Predators begins to unravel. The pacing slows to a tiresome rate making the uninspired dialogue distractingly noticeable. Pure silliness takes over when Laurence Fishburne steps in Noland, a survivor from a previous hunting season who’s lost quite a bit of his sanity. The madness effect is reasonable, but not only do writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch take the character a giant step too far by giving him an imaginary friend, Fishburne makes him almost laughable with a severe case of overacting.
As for the other stars, everyone puts on a fine performance, some characters are just more memorable than others. The most fun of the bunch is the wacky murderer Stans, who’s the film’s prime source of comedic relief. Grace is a natural as the geeky and unassuming Edwin, but the script forces Grace to take him in an unjustifiable direction. Braga makes for a fine Isabelle, there’s just nothing particularly interesting about the character. The only time she causes a stir is when she reveals her knowledge of Dutch and the situation in Guatemala from the original film. Brody is the lead of this film and for a good reason, he’s fantastic. Even with a mouth filled with cliché tough guy talk and an unnatural ability to figure out exactly what’s going on, there’s something about him that’s mesmerizing and makes for the perfect hero.
Don’t expect much and Predators will deliver. It’s nowhere near as thoughtful as Predator, but between the impressive set design, upgraded enemies, battle sequences and gore, it’ll at least satiate your appetite for some Predator action. But unfortunately, it’s not much more than that. It’s an enjoyable 107 minutes, but once the film comes to an end, the blaring lack of inspiration is so powerful, Predators will feel like a missed opportunity.
Story: B –
By Perri Nemiroff