I have to confess that an extension to the Predator franchise didn’t excite me much. I loved the Arnie original, and I’m convinced that the Predator itself remains one of the most exciting action antagonists of the last century, but it always seemed hard to know where to take it.
There were the Aliens vs Predator face-offs, which celebrated all that was fun about these ass-kicking aliens, but plot wise the Predator seemed to have run its course after the first installment. Predator 2 is a forgettable attempt to capitalise on a quality character that, if anything, dilutes the best things about him by introducing human characteristics like compassion.
So when Predators (Fox, released on Friday) opened with a Lost-style intro that completely disorientated me, I was jolted out of my seat. There was an element of intrigue to Nimrod Antal’s (Vacancy) beginning that I just didn’t expect. And as a group of disparate characters, seemingly only loosely associated by experiences of battle, collected together to work out exactly what was going on, I wondered whether writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch (working from an idea producer Robert Rodriguez birthed in the mid 90′s) had actually managed to pull out a trump card.
I won’t spoil any more about the plot, but suffice to say that my expectations, having been so expertly raised, were gradually pushed back to their starting point as the plot unfolded: because what this initial, intense experience descended into was another riff on the standard Predator preying on the humans scenario. In fact, on so similar to the original that it was even set in a jungle and took many of the same shots and reveals from its 80s ancestor.
That said, assessing it as another Predator action film, the film stands head and shoulders above most of the bunch (the exception, obviously, being Predator). Adrien Brody manages an excellent performance as the brooding mercenary Royce, with the rest of his band of Predator prey each fulfilling their part of the deal with the requisite balance of bombastic enthusiasm and knowing irony at the repetition of the Predator tale. Meanwhile the Predators themselves are once again expanded on, but this time in less of a humanoid way: they are truly given a personality (or existence at least) that we can believe in.
As to the action, there was enough of it to keep you interested throughout. Some of the fight choreography was a little lacklustre, particularly in the much-anticipated Predator vs Predator face-off, but there were sufficient twists and turns, thrills and spills to fill in the gaps between some more plodding plot points. Plus, a Yakuza guy battles a Predator with a samurai sword: and who can sniff at that?
The final element that should push the film up to a solid action standard is the comedy one liners. There are a few nice lines (and one rape joke that pushes pretty close to the line of acceptability) and some awesome moments of unintentional hilarity, mostly involving Laurence Fishburne’s bizarre Predator survivor Noland, whose inexplicable existence culminates in a ridiculous moment of stupidity in which he seems to confuse humans with bees, and Predators with retarded monkeys.
So all-in-all, it’s nothing to shout from the rooftops about but, given the standard set by the majority of Predator movies, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by this formulaic but fun cat-and-mouse thriller.