Predators is a workable revival of the B-movie hunters-become-the-hunted franchise that Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McTiernan launched back in 1987. It sets up as a taut, nervy Eight Rough Characters in Search of an Exit, flirts with the idea of being a bloody and profane episode of TV's , and only goes seriously wrong in the last half hour.
We see Oscar winner Adrien Brody in mid-plummet. He's been tossed out of an aircraft. He's awakened in time to realize he needs to get that parachute open. It isn't easy. Even though he's a soldier, it isn't his usual gear.
The nameless soldier lands in a jungle he cannot identify, Let's call it "Kudzu World." And others are tumbling into it after him.
There's the sniper ( Alice Braga), the heavily-armed Mexican ( Danny Trejo), the silent Yakuza mobster (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a member of an African hit squad (Mahershalalhashba Ali), a Russian special forces commando (Oleg Taktarov), a convict (Walter Goggins) and a doctor ( Topher Grace).
They're armed to the teeth. The last thing they remember was being snatched. And all around them is evidence of hunting.
"Whoever they are, they take trophies."
This octet figures out the game pretty quickly, a relief, since those of us who've seen one or all of these Predator movies knows the drill. What's more, the script is aware of that past. Who among them knows where these toothy, cloaked combat suit beasties have turned up before? Will that data help them survive?
This Robert Rodriguez production has plenty of time for tough talk, and Brody raises his cool guy stock considerably by tearing off his lines like so much beef jerky. Somebody floats the Lost "Maybe we're in Hell" theory. He isn't buying.
"Last time I checked, you didn't need a parachute to get there."
Director Nimrod Antal (Armored, Control) is efficient at picking off his pawns and doesn't let the formulaic script get him down. Then, at the one hour mark, Predators goes all loopy in an effort to surprise us and the picture loses its nerve and becomes something of a joke an Apocalypse Now joke.
But Brody and Braga (Repo Men), Grace (as the comic relief) and, as the psychotic con, Goggins (That Evening Sun), give this visceral, violent ride its humanity and inhumanity. All these years after Predator, these decades past the classic film, Most Dangerous Game, that inspired this genre, it's good to see the idea of the hunter becoming the hunted still gets the blood racing.
See for yourself
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo
Director: Nimrod Antal
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Industry Rating: R.