It has been 23 years since Arnold and company marched into the jungle to make a stand against the creepy aliens in Predator. Predator was one of the defining action franchises of the 1980’s and the film spawned a sequel and two spin offs. Now the reboot has arrived, touching down covered in cliches and not very original. Predators gives us a chance to revisit this classic 1980’s action franchise, but is it really worth the watch?
An intriguing premise no doubt, Predators tells the story of eight strangers who awake in a jungle. As the film starts, we are introduced to our rag tag group of characters. We meet Royce (Adrien Brody), Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Isabelle (Alice Braga), Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), Stans (Walton Goggins), Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and Edwin (Topher Grace). It’s a colorful cast of characters but if there’s one thing they have in common it’s the fact that most of them know how to kill. Amongst the group there’s an Israeli sniper, a Russian soldier, a death row inmate, a drug cartel enforcer etc.
As everyone comes to their senses, they start to explore. Royce takes on the role of self-appointed leader and as they descend into the jungle they try to figure out just what the heck is going on. Royce eventually realizes he’s not in Kansas anymore and he comes to a conclusion as he tells the group “we’re gonna need a new plan.” The group realizes that they’re not even on Earth anymore, rather they’re on some type of alien planet. As they dig a bit deeper, they figure out just what is going on. Royce realizes it first as he says “This whole planet is a game preserve — and we’re the game.” Now they must band together to figure out how to get off the planet before they become trophies for the Predators that are hunting them.
A bit of the plot is admittedly silly and even borders on ridiculous at times. Our gang fights their way through the jungle and we eventually arrive to the point where Royce comes up with the plan that consists of the following.
Let’s find the predators ship (because they must have one right?) and let’s hijack it from them (because Royce can surely fly it, right?) and then let’s proceed to go home (because they can obviously navigate their way from one planet to another right?).
It is at that point that really, anything goes in this film. By this time we see the Yakuza samurai fighting the Predator in a samurai showdown or Laurence Fishburne (in an odd cameo) trying his best to impersonate Colonel Kurtz, it actually doesn’t seem too far fetched. You just have to accept it, that’s just the way things go in the Predators world. In fact, due to the nature of the film, a couple of the more ridiculous elements of the plot can be forgiven.
Despite the questionable plot, the premise hooks you almost instantly and you do want to find out what happens. Thankfully the film has some acceptable acting to make things a bit more bearable. Brody is actually surprisingly a good choice for the lead role. Giving off some Heston and Stallone vibes, he proves to be effective in his role as the leader of the group and ultimately the hero of the film. It’s an intense performance and a nice turn for the talented young actor. The film appropriately distinguishes him as an action star.
Also showing up to give off worthy performances are Topher Grace who serves as the comedic relief and one of my personal favorites, Walton Goggins, from FX’s The Shield. Both of them are great and between Brody, Grace and Goggins we have some strong acting. Grace brings a bit of humor to the otherwise rough and tough group of characters and Goggins brings a bit of sleaze dropping lines like “When I get home I am going to rape me some fine ass bitches.”
As expected, most of the cast is expendable and a few people don’t even make it to the halfway mark. Although a few people were underused, the cast collectively does an appropriate job of portraying their roles.
In the character development department, the script amounts to little more than zero. We never really know why these people were chosen as game and we’re left to wonder was it a secret government project or simply Predator shenanigans?
Most people didn’t come here for the acting or plot though. They came here for the action and in that department Predators does deliver. After pushing through a somewhat slowly paced first half, things pick up and our favorite alien creatures show up to dish out some death.
Some exciting stunt work and effective special effects make the fighting and action pretty enjoyable. Behind the camera Nimrod Antal infuses some style into the film and he stages the ensuing carnage fairly well. He remembers to include all our favorite Predator traits including the invisible camouflage and heat vision and it all makes for a pretty worthy opponent.
Unlike the Alien vs. Predator films, this movie doesn’t rely too heavily on CGI and it works out well. There is more than enough blood and gore for the horror fans and fans of the original will feel right at home. If you came for action, bloody deaths and some ass kicking by Adrien Brody, you’ve probably come to the right place.
What ultimately holds the film back from being anything more than some good ol fashioned B-grade entertainment is that on the whole, it’s pretty conventional. The flat as cardboard characters literally line up to be added to the body count and you can actually start to guess who will be disposed of next (I’ll give you a hint, the foreign guy gets it first).
The expected conventions like hunter becomes the hunted, not everyone is who you think they are, unlikely alliances and preposterous betrayals are found here as well. There’s also a couple ‘where the heck did that come from’ moments (Topher Grace at the end anybody?) and we get more than enough scenes of Brody growling lines in a Charlton Heston manner. Antal throws in a few twists to keep things moving but the familiar character types and the excessive cliches turn the film into a big game of who will die first and not much else.
Is Predators entertaining? Yes, for the most part. Is it a well made film? No, not really. It’s sloppy in a lot of areas and could have turned out a lot better with a more polished script and some better directing choices. Fans of the original will probably be fine with what is presented here and for the casual moviegoer, well if you go in expecting nothing more than some B-grade horror movie entertainment, you’ll probably enjoy it.
A decent cast, great effects and costumes and satisfying blood and gore make this a pretty decent horror remake, which you don't find too often.