PLOT: A group of battle-hardened warriors are transported to the Predator home world, where they are hunted for sport.
REVIEW: Fuckin' A! That's what I was thinking to myself the second this film started, with Adrien Brody waking up mid-free fall, as he plummeted into the jungle hunting ground of the PREDATORS. From there, the action didn't let up, with us being quickly introduced to our main characters, all of whom are killers, or man-hunters, in some regard. There's Royce (Brody), a battle hardened, Ernest Hemingway-quoting, mercenary who's out to save his own skin and no one else's. Well, his, and maybe the sexy Isabelle (Alice Braga), an Israeli sniper, and seemingly the most conscientious of the group. Besides them, we also get a drug cartel enforcer (MACHETE himself, Danny Trejo), a Russian Spetnaz soldier (Oleg Taktarov), a Yakuza hit-man (Louis Ozawa Changchien), and RUF killer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and a death-row inmate (Walton Goggins). Oh yeah, we also get a nerdy doctor (Topher Grace), who seems to be the odd man out, but may be hiding something (da dum).
Overall, PREDATORS is exactly the shot of adrenaline I was hoping for after a summer full of emo-vampires (ECLIPSE), or kiddie action heroes (KARATE KID, LAST AIRBENDER). Here, we get some rock solid, down and dirty R-rated action, reminiscent of the best of the eighties. Obviously, producer Robert Rodriguez patterned this closely on the original PREDATOR (with a healthy dose of ALIENS mixed in), as this follows a lot of the same beats the (still great) original film did. The super shitty AVP series is rightfully ignored, with this picking up on the same mythology we saw in the first two PREDATOR films, with humans being hunted for sport.
This has the novel approach of having the humans dropped smack dab in the middle of a game preserve located on the PREDATOR home world, and we get the notion that the species has been abducting warriors to be hunted for years, with this being a right of passage for the Predator warriors. We learn as much when we meet Laurence Fishburne's character, who's been surviving on his own for ten years (one gets the idea that, had Schwarzenegger not been serving as Governor of California, this role might have been intended for him with his character, Dutch, being name checked at one point). I like the mythology of the Predator home world, particularly the idea that there's racial strife between the different types of Predator warriors, which is an intriguing idea I`d love to see developed in future films.
Of course, after a few years of crap AVP movies, you can`t blame Rodriguez, and director Nimrod Antal for eschewing the Predator politics in favour of action, and on that level this film delivers in spades. While it has a slow build (the Predator action doesn't really kick in until the second hour), the first hour is spent developing the likable characters, with each member getting their moment in the sun, so to speak. I particularly liked THE SHIELD`s Walton Goggins, as the mouthy death-row inmate, who`s got a hilarious spin on the cliched ``when I get home`` speech, that I`m not going to ruin here. Goggins is an awesome character actor, and I`d love to see him get more action roles (although you can catch him stealing scenes on the excellent series, JUSTIFIED).
Following in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover as the PREDATOR leading man, we get a surprisingly effective Adrien Brody, who`s so jacked up for the role, you might have a hard time believing this is the same guy who used to be a quirky, wiry character actor in low-key dramas, and won a (richly deserved) Oscar for THE PIANIST. I gotta say, I had my doubts when Brody was announced for the role but I was 100% sold on him right off the bat and toward the end, where he emulates Arnie in his shirtless mano e mano with a Predator, I was on the edge of my seat. I actually like that they cast an everyman in the role, more along the lines of Danny Glover in the underrated PREDATOR 2, as Arnie`s a tough act to follow, and casting another muscle-man probably would have been a mistake (unless another icon, like Stallone or Willis was available).
Supporting Brody, we get the always excellent Alice Braga, who brings equal parts heart, sex appeal and kick-ass to her role, which has more than a little in common with the classic Vasquez character from ALIENS. As for Topher Grace, while he was a disaster in SPIDER-MAN 3, he`s perfectly cast here, although the less said about his character, the better as I don`t want to spoil the twist (although I guessed his true nature right from the get-go).
Another plus is the awesome score by John Debney, which so expertly emulates the classic Alan Silvestri score of the original film, I was convinced he composed the soundtrack rather than Debney. The film is also extremely well cut, with the quick-cutting common place in wannabe-action flicks like THE A-TEAM, more or less absent. We also get a refreshingly low-key use of CGI, with practical effects seemingly being used for most of the Predators (their CGI tracking hounds are a different story).
Overall, I had a total blast with PREDATORS, and other than a few pacing issues toward the middle (could have maybe lost 5-10 min), and a few cliches (of course, Brody winds up being much more heroic than he initially comes off), this is a perfect piece of summer entertainment. Hopefully people will get out and support it, as this type of hard-core action film that needs to make a comeback. In the PREDATOR/ALIENS canon, I'd rank this below the first two Alien flicks, and the first PREDATOR, but ahead of PREDATOR 2, and the other two ALIEN films (AVP doesn't even register). It's a wild, adrenaline rush of a film, and a kick-ass time at the movies.
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