There is no hunting like the hunting of men
Almost a quarter of a century ago, John McTiernan’s Predator cast Arnie as an alien hunter extraordinare and thrilled audiences in the process. No matter that it stuttered as a franchise, with the recent Alien Vs Predator movies smacking of desperation; the original is now heralded as one of the pinnacle moments of Eighies action excess. And riding the wave of nostalgia for this decade that has driven recent reboots like Rambo and A Nightmare on Elm Street comes the all-new Predators, a glossy homage to its 1987 godfather that celebrates all that was great about the original while introducing the concept to a new, effects-savvy generation.
When mercenary soldier Royce (Adrien Brody) wakes from a deep sleep, he is shocked to find himself in freefall. Landing in the middle of a dense jungle, his attempts to make sense of his situation is interrupted by other falling bodies, including those of doctor Edwin (Topher Grace), cartel hitman Cuchillo (Danny Trejo) and Israeli sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga). As the rag-tag team take stock of their surroundings, they come to realise that they are very far from home – and that they have been put their for a shocking reason. Running into the jungle’s terrifying extraterrestrial inhabitants, they find themselves in a fight for survival that will leave few of them standing.
Robert Rodriguez’s 1994 script has been given a dusting down by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch – although Rodriguez has stayed on board as producer – and it’s a simple conflict story that doesn’t stray too far from the first film while bringing in enough tweaks to make it more sequel than remake. True, the story is nothing more than a plot strand on which to hang the action -suffice it to say that you shouldn’t invest too heavily in the majority of the characters – but it’s all handled with skill by director Nimrod Antal, who knows when to hand the action over to his VFX team for maximum impact. It could be said that some of the visceral fun is lost in these slick visuals, but there’s plenty of Predator-driven mayhem to keep fans of the genre happy.
But it’s not all blood ‘n’ guts. Those characters who are fleshed out to be more than early alien fodder are really interesting. Grace’s softly spoken, wimpy doctor sticks out like a sore thumb for reasons that become blisteringly clear and, while she couldn’t take on Ripley, Braga’s Isabelle has enough bravery and humanity to make her a deserving heroine. Elsewhere, Louis Ozawa Changchien’s silent yakuza Hanzo has a genuine presence, and handles one of the best fight scene of the movie with grace and style.
But it is, of course, Adrien Brody who is – Predators aside – the star of the show. Cast absolutely against type, he wisely hasn’t tried to completely re-invent himself as a muscle-bound action hero (although he has clearly put in some serious gym time). Instead, he is an enigmatic and intense leading man, for the most part commanding the group with his ruthless determination to survive – albeit with the odd Hemingway quote thrown in – but with enough killer moves to prove he can definitely handle himself; and the role.
Predators has succeeded where so many before it have failed; it’s a sequel that honours its origins while breathing exciting new life into a flatlining franchise. And, as an adrenaline-fuelled slice of monster mayhem it will be one of this summer’s biggest hitters.
Stars Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo
Director Nimrod Antal
Screenplay Alex Litvak & Michael Finch
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox
Running Time 1hr 47mins
Opens July 8