- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s been 23 years since John McTiernan’s “Predator” was released in theaters, but it looks like fans of the sci-fi horror classic have finally been given the sequel they deserve. That’s not to say that “Predators” (a fitting title considering the franchise’s history with a certain other sci-fi horror series) is as good as the original, but it’s a major improvement compared to the flat and uninspired sequels that preceded it. Producer Robert Rodriguez has even admitted that he wrote the film so he could forget the dismal "Predator 2" was ever made, and if that's not enough to win over fans, then there's plenty of B-movie carnage to convince them otherwise.
Adrien Brody stars as Royce, an ex-military operative-turned-mercenary whom we first meet freefalling through the sky as he desperately tries to deploy his parachute before crashing into the jungle below him. He’s not alone, either, as seven killers just like him – including an Israeli Defense Force sniper (Alice Braga), a death row inmate (Walton Goggins), a Yakuza assassin (Louis Ozawa Changchien), and a drug cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo) – are dropped into an environment that looks suspiciously like Earth. But as they soon discover, it’s actually an alien planet that doubles as a game reserve for a warrior species that hunts for sport. And as Royce is all too keen to point out, they're the prey.
What follows is a story not unlike the 1987 original – with the first half dedicated to the build-up as the victims are stalked from a distance, and the second half delivering the payoff as they're killed one-by-one in brutal and grotesque ways. (Sadly, no heads explode like watermelons, but there is a pretty nifty kill where one of the characters has their entire skull and spine ripped from their body while still alive.) In fact, while it might feel a little too familiar between the jungle setting, the clever homages (mini-gun!), and the return of the classic Predator, Nimród Antal has added a few flourishes of his own.
For starters, “Predators” is a much more serious movie, devoid of any campy dialogue or ham-fisted acting in an attempt to restore the intensity of the first film. There are also a few new classes of Predators introduced, including a meaner version who hunts the weaker members of his species, another who uses a mechanical falcon to track his prey, and even some Predator hounds, who are admittedly a bit lame. The biggest change, however, is the lack of a real action star in the lead role. When you think of the actors who could fill Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoes, you don’t think of Adrien Brody, which is exactly why it works. Though Brody could have done without the gravelly voice, it actually makes sense to have someone who can outsmart the Predators rather than beat them into submission. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Brody from bulking up, or from slathering himself in mud in an obvious nod to his predecessor’s final standoff.
The rest of the actors make the most of their limited screen time – especially Walton Goggins as the sleazy murderer-rapist and Topher Grace as a frightened physician who doesn’t seem to belong – but it’s Laurence Fishburne’s delightfully wacky turn as a stir crazy survivor who’s seen “Apocalypse Now” a few too many times that nearly steals the show. Antal doesn’t develop the characters any more than they need to be, however, and instead focuses on cramming in as much mindless action as possible. And why not? This is a Predators movie after all, and even though it’s the fifth film to feature the alien warriors, Antal has delivered the closest thing to a true sequel to the original. It’s the kind of back-to-basics approach to B-movie filmmaking that fans will love, filled with great characters, snappy dialogue, and plenty of action. What more could you want?
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of “Predators” comes packed with a solid collection of bonus material including an audio commentary with director Nimrod Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez (although Rodriguez does most of the talking), a handful of deleted and extended scenes, and a series of motion comics that explore the back stories of the various characters. The highlight of the set, however, is the 40-minute making-of featurette, “Evolution of the Species,” which is divided into sections on location shooting, production design, creature design, and casting. Rounding out the set is a behind-the-scenes look at the Predator dog sequence and a digital copy of the film.