Predators does exactly what we want it to. Nearly every beat, character moment and action-packed set piece arrives how we want it to, when we want it to, sometimes even executed the way we want it to. In that way Predators fulfills 23 years of waiting for the sequel the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic always deserved. In another way, doing exactly what’s expected makes Predators a predictable, even staid, entertainment experience. But still entertaining!
So let’s do the review thing and talk about what works and what doesn’t.
Thankfully, a lot works. From the opening moment everything feels right. Character introductions literally fall in your lap and we know immediately who everyone is just by looking at them, hearing them cuss or by swinging sub-machines guns around. In the first few minutes there’s already so much hardware onscreen it’s a little daunting. The script’s smarter than it has any right to be, modeling itself almost exactly after the first Predator to the point where the characters will just sit around and wax poetic with bugged out eyes about what a crazy situation they’re in. Action happens logically and it’s not over-the-top nonsense either. No escaping-from-the sun-rope-swinging big budget sci-fi actioner malarkey here. Predators is old-school 80s B-movie with grounded in a reality that just happens to be on a game preserve planet faraway in the galaxy.
Perhaps somewhat (strangely) disappointingly, the movie paces itself almost exactly like the first Predator as well, assuming the audience knows nothing of the creatures these humans (who are nearly all professional or hobby killers — predators themselves, derp derp) are up against. So it’s odd then that the movie performs an information dump about the creatures towards the middle of the plot, removing the need for the protagonists to find out about the creatures and their capabilities on their own. It sort of works, but it also feels like a cheat. Instead of Adrien Brody discovering on his own that the Predator sees in infrared, he’s just told they do. The movie also assumes the audience didn’t see the trailer or read about the premise years ago, so a few of the “big reveals” lose any impact. Predators would work best for someone who’s never seen the first movie or knows nothing of this one. So, girlfriends, I guess.
The cast! Holy shit. There’s not a weak link in the whole bunch, something I don’t think can be said for many movies of this genre. Certainly, it can’t be said for many movies in this series. Even the trademark Latin woman pulls it off, managing the startling feat of not being annoying, and looking sexy and convincing toting around a gigantic sniper rifle at the same time. We get way more Topher Grace than bargained for, which is never a bad thing, and Justified‘s Walton Goggins gives us another one of his fine smarmy-yet-satisfying performances.
Adrien Brody, the main merc of the show, does not squander the goodwill he’s earned from Splice, playing a smarter, calmer soldier than Arnold’s Dutch from Predator. Perhaps too calm. Alas, it would’ve been nice if Adrien went crazy and yelled a little. We don’t get a “Get to da choppah” moment, although there’s plenty of crazy in the other characters.
Laurence Fishburne’s for instance.
I don’t know. I guess he was good. He was probably a little too crazy. Like, a little too much acting’s going on when he’s around. It’s clear by the looks of the characters around him, even they are thinking “This is too much acting. Let’s get to the killing now.” I guess I was mostly bothered by how thick he looks onscreen, and him throwing his weight around doesn’t do the movie any favors. In fact, his scenes could get cut and the movie would only benefit from that. At 106 or so minutes Predators runs a little longer than desired. Now, a 90-minute Predators? Someone call somebody and make it happen!
Otherwise, Predators is great. I liked it, and I like it more the more I think about it. It’s nice to see what you can get when you have a writer who really cares about the material (Robert Rodriguez) and a capable director (Nimrod Antal) on board a genre picture. Although it would’ve been really cool if Predators did a genre fakeout. The original Predator started out as a war movie then turned into a sci-fi monster movie. Maybe the next one can start out as a romantic comedy.
In the jungle.