Robert Rodriguez (PlanetTerror, Sin City) captures the spirit of the original, leaving a trail of suspense in its wake. Predators is a fast-paced, psychological science fiction thriller. Starring in the unlikely role of action hero is Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong), who we just saw earlier this year in Splice. Dark and mysterious, Alice Braga (I am Legend) literally drops in to join the fun. Produced by Robert Rodriguez and directed by Nimród Antal (Armored), Predators is part remake and an addition to the Aliens and Predator franchise. Rated R for the violence and language this film is worth checking out for some insights into the series.
Director Antal introduces us to the predator world and the characters quickly and unceremoniously, by just dropping them onto the scene. Waking up in free fall, we join Royce (Brody), as he struggles to release his parachute. Landing in the jungle, Royce is met by a Mexican Drug Enforcer played by the ugly Danny Trejo (Spy Kids). Add a mad Russian (Oleg Taktarov), throw in a Yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a death row inmate (Walton Goggins), and RUF militant (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) to replace the original group of commandos that Schwarzenegger led in 1987. While not a complete remake, Antal and Rodriguez throw in Topher Grace (That 70’s Show) for good measure, and you have the makings of a film worthy to wear the Predator(s) title. All characters carry guns of some sort, except one, which make you wonder why he is there at all. After wandering around in the jungle for a while, not sure why they are there or where they are, the group figure out that they aren’t on Earth, which becomes clear with some beautiful physics defying larger than life planetary imagery. These soldiers of fortune selected for their human hunting skills become the hunted, and like the original version, we don’t see the es until almost half way. Keeping in line with the thermographic photography, we get the Predator point of view, just to let us know that the group is being stalked.
If you are new to the Predator franchise, this is an excellent place to start. This new version subtly adds to the mythology, and keeps to some basic franchise facts like the Predators always hunt in three, and that they hunt by season and that the hunt is a training exercise for these creatures. If you don’t know all this, either Brody, Braga or a short, appearance by Laurence Fishburne will clue you in. Although Adrien Brody is known more for playing the thinking man, he dons the action hero role well, keeping words to a minimum. Not relying on brute force to fight his enemy, Brody shows that he is still plotting his escape. Braga’s character Isabelle is a sniper sporting one sophisticated electronic sniper scope. The South American beauty lets us in on the big secret about half way; she has heard of these creatures before, which keeps the franchise timeline in tact.
Something that Predator fans haven’t seen before are the alien’s hellhounds that flush the group into the open. More visually exciting, and ugly as all hell, these hunting dogs look like a wild boar on steroids. My only real disappointment is that I didn’t get enough of Danny Trejo; as we all know, characters die off in interesting ways. As a character study, Predators doesn’t match up to an Agatha Christie mystery; however, director Nimrod Antal does an excellent job killing off the characters leaving more than just a trail of bodies. Fishburne makes an odd appearance as a crazy survivor of hunting seasons past; seemingly just long enough to add to the creature’s mythos. The creature effects are on par with any of the newer Alien vs.Predator films, unfortunately, there is nothing new that we learn about their technology. The acting is believable; the story is intriguing, and the ending is unexpected. Overall, Predators is a visually appealing revisit to the Predator universe and an escape from the summer heat.