In 1987, in the midst of his heyday, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Predator, an action sci-fi mixed genre film that won over both critics and movie-goers. But just like everything successful in Hollywood, the studio system attempted to build it into a franchise. The first sequel, Predator 2, was made in 1990 and both Alien vs. Predator and AVPR: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem arrived in the last six years. A mixed bag commercially, the films received a common line from the critics: a big thumbs down. While containing the same alien species, there was no linear connection between the sequels and the original film (the final two films merely an excuse to get two of cinema’s classic creatures to do battle). With Nimrod Antal’s Predators, the fifth film in the line, that pattern comes to an abrupt and blissful end.
The six main characters each wake up mid-air as they hurtle towards the ground. Their parachutes open, they grumble and stumble on this strange new terrain and lo and behold all bar one happen to be well practiced murderers cut from different killer cloths. There’s a death row criminal, a mercenary, a Yakuza, a US soldier and so forth. Anybody familiar with the Saw franchise should recognize this as a distinctly Jigsawian situation: it’s as if the grisly “do you want to play a game?” trap maker decided to teach a bunch of a-holes a lesson and hired some very freakin’ ugly alien things to do his dirty work. Realizing they’re prey for one helluva round of skirmish, these marked men (plus one obligatory chick) grudgingly work together – and, as these things go, get killed together. Cypress Hill said it all: when da ship goes down, you better be ready. You better be ready.
Adrien Brody leads the cast as Royce, a mercenary with a black heart and a passion for killing. Brody is solid and you’d hardly expect some ex-black ops mercenary to be some muscle bound thug, a la Schwarzenegger, but as with all films of this sort the actor is only as good as the material. For the most part, Predators isn’t hurt by character development or silliness as much as it suffers from a lack of intensity. Nothing seems new or interesting and the excitement meter rarely jumps. Sure, we are on an alien planet, but unless you’re working on par with Pandora we are going to need a little more than gooey flowers to stimulate the imagination.
For all the movie’s highs, the movie’s large cast causes problems. Taking a hard-R approach, the Predators need characters to be the occasional victims, but this leaves many of the stranded human killers feeling ancillary and superfluous. From the very start it’s obvious where the line of demarcation between survivors and victims lays, and while it’s endlessly entertaining to watch the alien hunters do what they do best, it would have been useful to get to know these people before we watched them slaughtered.
Don’t expect too much from the final action-packed ET-whooping finale, but it isn’t a total cop out either. Fans of the original movie (forget the subsequent cash-ins) will leave Predators satisfied but more than likely a whisker underwhelmed. Their first and loudest criticism should be the near total absence of one of the key elements of the original: the snappy, snigger-inducing junky one-liners. A writer who could’ve penned two or three corkers would’ve been worth a screenwriting credit and a cool 100K, easy. Anyone who doubts that logic needs simply to revisit this timeless exchange from the original between Poncho (Richard Chaves) and Blain (Jesse Ventura). Simple? Yes. Gloriously effective? You betcha.
Poncho: You’re bleeding man. You’re hit.
Blain: I ain’t got time to bleed.