Review: Predators

Film review
Directed by Nimród Antal
Starring Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo

A hardy group of mercenaries and killers, including Royce (Brody), Cuchillo (Trejo) and Isabelle (Braga), are parachuted into a mysterious jungle. They soon find they’ve been gathered as prey for relentless alien hunters…

The last movie to feature everyone’s favourite outer space slayers, the Strause Brothers’ Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem, was a dreary affair, marked by dim lighting, lifeless characters and poor pacing. Happily, director Nimród Antal (Vacancy) and producer Robert Rodriguez have gone back to Pred’ School 101 and studied what made the original so damn great. They’ve reinstated the jungle setting (this time it’s an alien world, but aside from a few weird venomous flowers, it’s near-identical to the Guatemalan backdrop of the 1987 flick), reinstated the scenery-chewing bunch of hardmen (and one woman) and, well, just made things fun again.

Like John McTiernan’s barnstorming original, this isn’t a movie with pretensions of being high-art. But in terms of pacing and action it’s often exceptional. Predators opens with a bang (a brilliant, snappy pre-credits sequence sees Adrien Brody’s black ops expert tumbling through the air before the title crashes in) and there are plenty more bangs (plus a scattering of booms, snarls and yells) before the 106 minutes are up.

Antal wisely takes his time before revealing the alien hunters in all their body-plated, mandibled glory, ratcheting up the tension as the heavily-armed anti-heroes discover what they’re up against while getting to know each other in a sweary, fighty manner.

This motley crew of professional killers and depraved maniacs are colourful, exploitation pic’ throwbacks who snarl every deliberately ridiculous line of dialogue and shoot first and ask exposition-prompting questions later. The cast judge the tone just rightly, with a brawny Adrien Brody (continuing his run of fun genre flicks after Giallo and Splice) and I Am Legend’s Alice Braga offering up a range of purse-lipped expressions and mild hints of humanity, while the likes of Walter Goggins (debauched loon), Laurence Fishburne (Colonel Kurtz-style loon) and Danny Trejo (drug-dealer loon) ham it up to the treetops, as per usual. You wouldn’t trust these doomed misfits babysitting your kids, but strangely they’re more appealing than the smug heroes of that other recent men-on-a-mission flick, The Losers.

If it wasn’t for the presence of CG monster-mutts, you could almost believe Predators was made in the late ‘80s, with composer John Debney delivering a joyful pastiche of the original score, and Antal shunning current trends of shaky camerawork and kinetic editing in favour of coherent action sequences and lingering, widescreen shots that highlight the jungle’s menacing beauty.

Inevitably, Predators doesn’t quite hit the thundering heights of the original. Once the monsters are uncloaked the tension dissipates somewhat, and there’s a lack of really crazy, blood-splattered set-pieces (though thanks partly to the skilful editing, it doesn’t feel as bland and bloodless as Paul WS Anderson’s AVP). But otherwise this is a riotous action-horror that’s aware of its silliness but wisely never descends into wink-wink irony. Revel in its ridiculousness. Matt McAllister

VERDICT: 7/10
There aren’t many major surprises here, but this fun, dumb monster actioner pulls the franchise away from those lame AVP efforts, resulting in the second-best Pred’ movie so far.

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