Just think. If they had upgraded their guns just a little more, they might've actually hurt the Predator!
Predators begins with a bunch of dudes literally falling out of the sky into a lush jungle! They're all your basic assortment of murderers, warlords, mercenaries, and psychopaths, so they quickly form an alliance with each other based upon their mutual interests. First on their to do list is figure out where the hell they are. As is soon revealed, however, they are on a completely different planet, one that looks surprisingly similar to the Amazon rainforest or any rainforest, really! They quickly find, much to their displeasure, they are now the targets of the biggest, baddest, most dreadlocked killer in the galaxy, the Predator. So, as is customary in situations such as these, they must team up to combat their stalkers, because, two guns are better then one. It's not the most interesting or original of plots, but, it didn't need to be. This is just your classic "beast stalks humans with intention to brutally kill" setup. You don't need much more than that!
Adrian Brody is chalking up, quite possibly, the weirdest resume of an Oscar winner. It's not all that uncommon to see him combatting mutants or aliens or giant apes since winning that golden man. Here, he plays a mercenary named Royce. He's kind of a jerk, has no regard for human life, and burns through ammo like a termite through wood. He has an uncanny ability to figure out any situation, and I mean any situation. It's a little ridiculous hearing him describe the predicament he and his new acquaintances are in when there has been no evidence to back up his claims. But, this is technically a grindhouse movie, so we'll let it pass. Brody does a fine job. His only drawback is that he talks in gravely, tough guy voice throughout the entire thing. You know, the kind of voice Christian Bale perfected(or brutalized, depending on who you ask)? It's a little annoying, but, it's a small qualm. Alice Braga is Isabella, aka, the obligatory female who will survive in the end, because killing the fairer sex is bad luck in these types of movies. She's alright, and does a solid job of handling the more absurd lines. She just doesn't have much to do, apart from balance out Royce's indifference with some humanity. Topher Grace is Edwin, a seemingly harmless doctor who seems out of place with all the macho, gun loving thickies he's been placed with. He's pretty good, and delivers some of the funnier lines in the whole thing. He's the focus of a twist in the very end that, while kinda interesting, is so easily predictable that they shouldn't have even bothered to include it. Other performances include Danny Trejo, criminally underused as a Mexican drug enforcer, Walton Goggins as a, clearly insane, death row inmate, and Oleg Taktarov, taking over for Jesse Ventura as the guy who wields the chain gun. Laurence Fishburne shows up in a very limited cameo as a Special Forces guy who has survived for a long time on the planet, evading predators and what not. He chews so much scenery, I thought the green screen they were shooting in front of would collapse at any second. It's an absolutely ridiculous performance that serves, literally no purpose. If he were not in the thing, nothing at all would be different. Performances for the most part are decent enough. None of the actors really stand out, but, none of them are overpowered by each other either. Take what you can, I guess.
He's a lot like Tim Robbins in War of the Worlds. Anyone remember that flick?
Director Nimrod (great name, right?) Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez have made, quite simply, the best of all the Predator movies to come after the original in 1987. If the title didn't already tip you off, Predators is to Predator what Aliens was to Alien (see what they did there?). Basically, the film follows the "more" approach; more monsters, more blood, more explosions and violence. Normally, this would signal the onset of an uninspired, boring sequel, but, as with Aliens, the "more" approach is exactly what was needed. Like Aliens, Predators is pretty relentless at times, but, in the spirit of the original, it takes its sweet time getting to the hyper violent parts. The movie is more interested in building an atmosphere of dread and suspense, so that when the first action sequence rears its head, it shocking and actually kinda scary. This is actually a pretty scary movie. Not nightmare inducing scary like Alien was, but enough so that you shift in your seat, unsettled by what is happening on screen. This is the best type of the sequel, one that improves on what made the original great, while adding it's own elements to make it stand out. Like Aliens was a worthy successor to Alien, Predators is more then capable of living up to the original. For example, the kills in this one are significantly more gruesome! You thought it was skin crawling seeing a spine and skull ripped out of a guys back in Predator? Wait until you see that trophy kill and how it's handled in Predators! Positively stomach churning!
Not everything's perfect, though. As with all films like this, the story relies on coincidences and sheer luck to further the plot, rather then take it's time and figure out an interesting way to go about things. It glosses over some potentially lucrative sub-plots. For example, the people dropped into the jungle make nice way too quickly. I would have loved to see them at odds with each other, if only for a little bit. It would have added some tension to an already tense movie. The acting isn't great, and a lot of the characters are there just to meet gruesome ends, most of which are easily foreseen. As with all movies of this genre, the death order is pretty predictable. Ethnics drop first, then the likable ethnic guys, and then finally the lesser of the three main anglos. And, finally, and I'm probably gonna be alone in this sentiment, but, for a movie called Predators, there wasn't enough of the Predators. Seriously, these guys only feature heavily in the latter half of the third act. I mean, they show up, regularly, but it's only near the end that they really start to run wild. The film chooses, instead, to spend a good amount of time focusing on the Laurence Fishburne character, and, in times like these, the pacing and excitement just dies. I'm all for building tension by keeping the beast in the shadows, but don't go overboard. We came to the movie to see the creature. Don't be afraid to show it to us.
But, when's all said and done, Predators is a damn good time at the movies. Easily one of the best offerings this summer has given us, this is an exciting, tense, thrill ride that stands out like a sore thumb, a good sore thumb, mind you, among the dumb and repetitive films this season has decided to bestow upon us. Is it as good as the original? No, but it didn't need to be. This is just a fun, well made movie that satisfactorily lives up to its bigger brother. This is the Predator movie Predator 2 should have been!