Treating itself as the third film in the Predator franchise, pretending the entirely forgettable Alien Vs. Predator films never happened, Predators is Robert Rodriguez’s relaunch of the iconic series and a return to form for the now cult alien character.
About a bunch of strangers, literally dropped in a mysterious jungle and suitably tooled up for whatever comes their way, they’re unaware of what else is lurking in the shadows but expect to have to use the rifles and miniguns they wake up with. All trained killers, henchmen or battle-scared individuals, at first the group go on the offensive, under the impression they need to hunt the wild animals to survive, but when they realise they themselves are the prey, face a fight to the death against an enemy not many have seen before, never mind lived to tell the tale.
A lot of fun, if a little brainless, Predators brings attention back to franchise under a much better like than the dreadful AVP films. Ditching their cartoonish violence and Hollywood set pieces, Predators is a lot more gritty and suspenseful, taking on a more grounded tone like the 1987 debut.
Though Predators isn’t quite as well put together as the original film, nor do the sequences offer the same sustained threat, it’s still enough to get your adrenaline flowing. Adrien Brody is good in the lead, driving the mercenaries through the jungle as they battle to survive; he pulls of his buffed up role and adds action to his repertoire, something you might not have expected. There’s a great cameo too from Lawrence Fishburne, whom halfway through the film, give it the quirk it badly needed.
Beyond the basic narrative, however, the plot struggles to do too much more than keep everything slowly ticking along. Somewhat frustratingly the semi-twist (select to reveal, if you didn’t already know: the film takes place on the Predators’ own planet) was already blurted out by early trailers and accompanying marketing campaign so the would-be surprise setting doesn’t have anything like the desired effect.
The main problem though is that you don’t really feel anything for the characters. Like a bystander to the action rather than living it through their eyes, as a result it’s difficult to be hugely drawn into whether the group actually survive as the internal relationships aren’t explored, with no real effort to step back into their back stories.
Excelling in its B-movie ideals, however, Predators is still far from a failure. Produced by Robert Rodriquez’s Troublemaker Studios, rather than in-house at distributors Fox, the film’s style, charisma and grit mean the filmmakers pull it off. Predators is director Nimród Antal’s best film since his fantastic debut, Kontroll, and both he and Rodriguez have already expressed their interest in further sequels, a move that is they could turn another picture around quickly with the same level of atmosphere and quality, would be no bad move.
Perfection this is not, but in terms of getting the Predator franchise back on track and putting together up an exciting thrill ride along the way, it certainly gets the job done.