The waiting is finally over. Predators has crash landed onto our screens and it rocks. Nimrod Antal and his producer Robert Rodriguez have joined forces to erase the bad taste and memories of Predator 2 and, even worse, Aliens versus Predator and it’s half-arsed sequel.
It is a movie that starts as it means to go on. The opening shot features Adrien Brody waking up from a deep slumber – only he’s plummeting to the earth with seconds to live before splattering where he falls. As this happens, the title of the movie fills the screen in large type. It’s more than a title: it’s an announcement: a statement of intent.
Featuring hard-boiled, and more often than not, comedic dialogue, these desperate band of killers are lost, confused and more than a little freaked out. How did they end up here? Why? Adrien Brody’s grizzled spec-ops dude, Royce, cottons on pretty early to some salient facts.
Rodriguez wasn’t half wrong when he said he wanted Predators to be what Aliens is to its predecessor. In the original, the slow invasion of science fiction replaced the jungle adventure narrative. Here technological elements are expanded and delivered much quicker. The pace really never lets up. Hunting season is on. There are references to the original all over the place, but given the milieu and surroundings they fit. There’s a Gatling gun, a hero caked in mud, corny dialogue, heat-vision shots and eviscerations galore.
Brody brings a quiet and sneaky authority to his role and certainly holds his own against the likes of Danny Trejo. His character is immediately likeable, which helps. Alice Braga as an Israeli sharpshooter knows more than she lets on and Topher Grace’s friendly doctor appears out of sorts with the rest of the group. As Isabelle says, ‘we’re the monsters of our own world.’
Antal’s direction is ferocious but measured. It never gets too silly and the set-pieces are inventive and tense. An early one pits the characters against a gauntlet of booby-traps then some alien-dog-type things show up. One particular set-piece, towards the end, features a samurai showdown between a Yakuza and a predator under a moonlit sky. Truly exquisite stuff.
Although Predators can be accused of suffering from much of the same as other Hollywood fare – it’s either a sequel or a remake these days – it delivers all an audience could wish for. For once it’s a blockbuster that will not disappoint. Offering adventure and thrills over by-the-numbers laziness.
Of course there are limits to what Predators can achieve. After all it’s a formulaic actioner in which characters are picked off one by one. Essentially a louder, bolder re-spin of John McTiernan’s landmark flick, there’s nothing really out of place or try-hard about it.
The aim was to make a proper bona fide sequel. The film-makers manage that with aplomb. Made by fans. For fans. It’s a credit to Robert Rodriguez, too, that he lets the director do his job. He is famous for doing everything himself, and although he’s all over this movie like a rash (especially the dialogue), he doesn’t own it.