The 1987 film Predator inspired a number of spinoffs, from the inane (Alien vs. Predator) to the ghastly (Predator 2), and it was definitely time for a reboot before the titular hunter became a tedious cliché. Predators is a nonstop thrill ride of an action film, laced with satisfying violence, exotic weapons and vulgarity.
Predators immediately jumps into the action with Royce (a terrific, pumped-up Adrien Brody) in freefall, without a clue how he got there. He deploys his parachute at the last possible second and slams into the earth. When he rises, he finds he’s been dropped into the jungle with a cast of killers including Central American guerilla fighter Isabelle (Alice Braga), Russian Spetsnaz soldier Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Mexican enforcer Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Sierra Leon death squad soldier Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), escaped death-row convict Stans (Walton Goggins) and odd-man-out doctor Edwin (Topher Grace).
After evading some vicious traps and an attack from strange and unknown boar-like creatures, they realize they’re not on Earth at all and have been transported to an alien game preserve with strange creatures seeking to hunt and kill them, purely as sport.
Most man-against-nature films get derailed with back-story, narrative devices and a desire to build sympathy for the characters. Predators doesn’t waste the time. It’s an action genre picture boiled down to its essence, and it’s thrilling and suspenseful, even with the occasional plot hiccup.
Royce (Brody) tries to come up with a survival strategy for the group, but as we’d expect with a tough mercenary, his strategy is to get himself off the planet, not to rescue everyone else.
With Predators the basic hunters have the same hulking, barrel-chested look and tentacle-framed faces that were in the original film, along with the same notquite-perfect camouflage. When there were Predator point-of-view shots, their infrared heat-sensitive view was right out of the earlier film. Homage, but not slavish devotion to the original source material.
The film still had lots of logical flaws and was a bit too formulaic to be a great movie. When you’re stranded on a hostile planet, food and ammunition are going to be a problem, but the former is completely ignored, and while at one point Royce says, “Let’s do a shell count; we need to conserve ammunition,” in the very next scene they’re all-barrels firing at a creature, ammo be damned.
Predators is a parable about morality, and destiny too: There’s a certain symmetry to the humans all being killers taken out of their natural element and hunted by a far more formidable killer. Early in the film Mombasa suggests, “This place is hell.” The ending certainly makes sense in this context, and, yes, there’s the possibility of a sequel. Rodriguez is already exploring scripts for Predators 2.
Director Nimród Antal also did something I really appreciate in monster films: He left us hanging for a very long time before the Predator actually showed up on screen. In fact, the creature doesn’t show up for almost 45 minutes, a smart move that lets Antal explore our fear of the unknown.
As I said at the beginning, I really enjoyed Predators and think it’ll be a hit with its target demographic of 18- to 25-year-old men. If you like this genre of tough guys forced to work together to overcome a terrifying obstacle or simply miss those great monster films of the late ’80s, I will wholeheartedly recommend this film. I also look forward to a sequel, something I don’t say very often.