Dir: Nimrod Antal
While 1987’s original Predator has achieved near godlike stature in the hearts of young (and not so young) men weaned on a certain strain of action cinema, the alien saga as a whole has long been something of a disappointment. Yet with Hollywood being Hollywood, and fanboy allegiance remaining unshakeable, the ugly motherf****r tribal cyborg and contender for best screen monster ever is still very much a hot property. After two shameful outings from the Alien Vs Predator doss house, it now falls to director Nimrod Antal and veteran producer Robert Rodriguez of Desperado fame to recapture the chest-pumping vitality of Arnie s initial foray into the jungle.
Whose mention brings us neatly to Predators leading man- Adrien Brody. An interesting choice, certainly, but he s by no means a let down as hardboiled anti-hero Royce. As a gifted actor, Brody s talents aren’t given a particularly rigorous workout by a largely 2D character, but he holds his own among a highly watchable cast rammed to the gills with clones from the first Predator. There’s the tough as Teflon, brick s***house Chechnyan with a mini gun, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the original’s Blain, a rebel fighter from Sierra Leone filling in for Mac, and even a near-silent, katana sporting (oh yes) yakuza with a fistful of zen (see Predator s Billy). It may seem an idle comparison, but this international gang of walking stereotypes epitomises the film’s dilemma- it is so desperately enamoured with its 23 year old predecessor that at times it feels like a remake.
To be clear, this isn’t entirely a bad thing. By paying its respects to its great-granddad, Predators strives for the same winning formula of suspense crossed with exhilarating action, and actually achieves it for short bursts.
The high concept for this chapter is that our planet’s most ruthless predators , in the guise of warriors, murderers and psychos, have been abducted and dropped into the eponymous aliens very own game reserve, to pit their martial prowess against a pack of the universe’s most deadly hunters on their own turf. This wafer-thin plot allows for a well-paced, marginally tense build up, capped off with a pleasing series of inventive set pieces and minor key twists as the surviving humans go head-to-head with their foe.
Visually, Predators is often striking, with some well-considered cinematography and suitably weird and diverse terrain creating the credible impression of an alien planet. The movie’s first half an hour is actually strongly reminiscent of the Lost TV series as the hapless group slowly gains its bearings, with the jungle’s crushing claustrophobia underpinning the cat and mouse game that unfurls.
Special mention also has to go to the ever-reliable Lawrence Fishbourne, who brilliantly subverts his usual father-figure role as a half-mad survivor from a previous deathmatch.
As it stands, Predators will satisfy many of the fans, and is a decent enough sci-fi actioner in its own right. There’s an exuberance to its gore-spattered deaths, earnest action and shamelessly hackneyed characterisation that is hard not to enjoy. While it’s nigh on impossible not to join the dots with John McTiernan’s stellar original, Antal’s effort is entertaining and occasionally unique enough to be tentatively elevated to the position of second best Predator film (sorry Danny Glover). Despite this, however, such intense worship of its roots means Predators is not the truly inspired fresh blood the series deserves. With Rodriguez reportedly putting his muscle behind a sequel, we can only hope the next iteration learns from this one s more impressive flourishes to deliver just that.