A group of battle-hardened strangers are literally dropped into a hostile jungle. They soon realise that they are the prey on an alien game reserve. But can the hunted become the hunter?
A man awakens mid freefall, disorientated his parachute opens and he finds himself in a dense tropical forest. So begins Predators, Robert Rodriguez’s oft-mooted continuation of the Predator series which wisely ignores any continuity with the woeful Alien v Predator movies, and pretty much successfully returns the franchise to its roots. Ironically it’s this adherence to the original's formula that prevents it from fully repeating the success of John McTiernan’s 1987 classic.
Adrien Brody is the unlikely but surprisingly well chosen replacement for Schwarzenegger, investing his character with a degree of identity lacking elsewhere; Royce is a single-minded self-interested hero willing to do whatever it takes to survive. The remaining cast are a mixed bag of clichéd badasses including Israeli snipers (Alice Braga) drug cartel enforcers (Danny Trejo) and Yakuzas (Louis Ozawa Changchien). They all slot into their allocated roles well enough but are no match for the iconic cast of the original. By the way, there are no prizes for guessing the real reason an initially out of place character is amongst the group.
With Rodriguez producing Nimród Antal steps into the director’s chair and efficiently handles proceedings without resorting to the attention deficit style editing so often found in modern blockbuster cinema. He moves the plot deftly from routine where-are-we-and-what’s-going-on moments to satisfying set pieces which give fans exactly what they want with convincing visceral intensity, but without any real innovation. That’s where the failings of the movie are most self-evident as at times it feels like a remake of the original. But where the original had the uniqueness of its concept to carry it along – audiences thinking they were watching a Dirty Dozen style actioner only to realise midway through that it was a different kind of movie entirely – Predators is hindered by the fact that viewers are almost always one step ahead of the characters; unlike in the underrated Predator 2, which took the concept in a new direction with a new setting & new ideas noticeably lacking this time round. But just when things seem to be getting predictable Laurence Fishburne turns up for a scene stealing cameo, revitalising proceedings to carry audiences through to the next set piece, and onward to the inevitable climactic man v monster slugfest.
Predators is an undeniably enjoyable movie, the pace never flags and it contains enough blood and bullets for fans of the genre. It’s just a shame that it’s so lacking in ambition, content to reprise the motifs of the original without doing enough to advance the concept, even down to the overly familiar score that lifts cues wholesale from Alan Silvestri’s Predator soundtrack. With a finale that demands a sequel it’s obvious this is intended as the beginning of a revitalised franchise. Hopefully the next instalment will take things into unchartered territory whilst retaining the action elements that make Predators so blatantly entertaining.