In the late ’80s, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the prime of his career, it became obvious that no mere mortal was enough of a formidable opponent for the awesomely accented Austrian. And so the Predator was born — an alien with the size of Shaq, the agility of Kobe and the soullessness of LeBron. Armed with blasters, blades, invisibility, infrared vision and, inexplicably, dreadlocks, the creature was a heart-stopping terror. But over the years, the alien lost its sinister appeal thanks to the very average “Predator 2” (1990) and a piss-poor pair of crossover appearances in the “Alien vs. Predator” series.
At Quality 16 and Rave
20th Century Fox
Enter producer Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”), who saw what a cartoon the once-feared Predator alien had become and decided to restore the magic of the original “Predator.” The result is “Predators,” and it works to an extent — it employs some truly excellent elements, but they aren’t enough to save the film from its countless missteps.
The film’s cast of characters — also known as the victims that the aliens will systematically kill off — is paradoxically one of the best and worst parts of the film. It’s comprised of a group of menacing killers (and Topher Grace) who find themselves dropped (literally) onto an alien planet. As self-proclaimed group leader Royce (Adrien Brody, “Splice”) soon deduces, they have all been brought to the planet to be hunted for game by a group of Predators.
What’s brilliant is the varied backgrounds of the characters. Royce is a guilt-free mercenary, Walton Goggins (TV’s “Justified”) plays a convict on death row; there’s a Mexican cartel enforcer, a Yakuza member, an African soldier, an Eastern European soldier and Topher Grace (“That ’70s Show”) as some pansy-ass doctor. As a gaggle of strangers with a penchant for murdering people, their interactions are always hilarious and captivating. Especially entertaining are Goggins, as quite possibly the funniest murder-rapist you’ll ever see, and Laurence Fishburne (who’s eaten too many Krispy Kremes since “The Matrix”) as a whack-job survivor hiding out on the planet.
At the same time, the fact that everybody is a stranger is the film’s most glaring flaw. When someone is inevitably killed, the rest of the crew doesn’t care and neither will the audience. Not only do the viewers have no emotional investment in the characters, but everyone’s a freaking murderer, so few will be shaken or saddened when the Predator rips out a man’s spinal cord. In fact, one may be pleased to see the demise of such a wretched group of scum and villainy.
And dear God, how badly cast is the lead role? Brody playing a tough-as-nails mercenary is less convincing than Mel Gibson’s claims that he isn’t a racist, anti-Semitic bum. It’s laughable (in a bad way) to see Brody spit out orders and run around with a machine gun like a kid playing paintball for the first time. Even Isabelle (Alice Braga, “I Am Legend”), the film’s lone woman, is a more competent, believable assassin than Brody. Not to knock the man’s talents, he just belongs in less high-octane fare.
The action sequences are decent but not spectacular, as are the special effects — though they are impressive for the $38 million budget. Other things to complain about include the countless number of Predators (one is enough), the achingly slow first act and all of Grace’s antics.
Unless it’s your thing to watch a group of people you don’t care about get killed by cool-looking aliens, you probably won’t like “Predators.” It is definitely an improvement over the Predator’s recent appearances, but that’s not really saying much.