Close your eyes. Transport yourself back to 1987. The high energy and surprisingly entertaining movie Predator has torn up the box office. A sequel has to follow. But in this alternate reality, Predator 2 never gets made. Neither do those abysmal Alien vs. Predator flicks. Now open your eyes. The sequel, as Robert Rodriguez envisioned it, is Predators. It is 22 years late but the original movie finally has a sequel of much more worth.
I suppose while I’ve got you thinking, I should now have you imagine the least likely person you can think of to triumph over those pesky alien hunters. No, Betty White is going too extreme. It’s Adrian Brody. In an unlikely casting (a lot like Jake Gyllenhaal was in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), he plays Royce, a well trained mercenary who finds himself a long, long way from Earth. Others too find themselves in the same uncomfortable situation — Edwin (Topher Grace) is an American doctor with a secret; Isabelle (Alice Braga) is an Israeli sniper sporting the film’s requisite boobage; Stans (Walter Goggins) is a convicted rapist and murderer; Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov) is a Russian commando; Cuchillo (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican drug enforcer; Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) is an African rebel fighter; and Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) is a yakuza heavy. (Apparently, the persons or things behind their predicament believe in equal opportunity).
Why they’re all in this jungle is anybody’s guess, but after dodging some booby traps and spiked-to-the-maximum alien hell hounds they catch on (too bad they lose one of the team before figuring it out). Turns out they’re in a hunting game preserve and they are the prey animals.
From a story point of view, Predators offers a slight twist to the conventional hack ’em up gore flick. Usually the hunted are clueless and indefensible, and joy can be had from watching them die gruesome deaths as they weep for mercy. Here the prey are fully armed and have all the skill sets necessary to assess their situation and develop counter measures. This, of course, doesn’t stop anyone from dying a horrible death (one is particularly impressive); after all, it is what the audience is craving.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise either that the effects have been upgraded. In the original, the predator looked like a guy in a suit; in Predators, the camouflaging, laser tracking, hook faced creatures look and move much more lifelike. The only issue is that it takes nearly half the movie before they make an appearance. However, when they finally do show themselves, the fights between man and predators are more violent and better choreographed.
Adrian Brody puts on an unexpectedly good show as the leader of the pack — I suppose the days of having to have a jacked-up guy be the action hero have been pushed aside. He brings a level of intelligence to what could have been a basic run-of-the-mill smash shit up role. The rest of the anti-heroes are interchangeable (although the entrance of Laurence Fishburne was a pleasant surprise), going through the necessary motions to keep the plot and action moving along.
Rounding it out, the feel of Predators is done well too. From the alien landscapes to the heightened sense of anxiety, director Nimrà³d Antal puts the audience in the moment and keeps them there. It doesn’t mean, however, that the movie is anything more than a guilty pleasure. You’ll get what you paid for — fun, mindless bloody action — and nothing more.