Three years after Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, 20th Century Fox welcomed fans back to the jungle. Not only is Predators a return to familiar stomping – er, hunting – grounds, but it manages to provide enough twists and turns to prove itself more than a soft-reboot.
Director: Nimrod Antal
Written by: Alex Litvak. Michael Finch
Runtime: 107 minutes
US Release: July 9, 2010; 20th Century Fox
From beginning to end, Antal propels his film forward with dynamite energy. The first shot is our main character Royce (Adrien Brody) free-falling through the air. He and others have been abducted and dropped onto an alien planet; this world is soon revealed to be a “game preserve” for the Predator species. It is a simple, yet refreshing, idea that facilitates Predator world building without being heavy-handed. Of course the Predators would play this most dangerous game with the galaxies strongest specimens. The only drawback is that we are not graced with the appearance of other, non-human extraterrestrials; as it stands, we are introduced to a band of mercenaries, drug traffickers, terrorists, and murderers. Despite their distrust for one another, they understand that working together is their only chance of getting off the planet.
It is a familiar idea, but executed well. As an ensemble piece, much depends on the cast chemistry. Not only does each performer bring personality and depth to their characters, but each plays well off the others. Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walter Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchein, and Mahershala Ali each deserve praise in creating a sense of fun adventure and perilous mystery. Special shout out, however, must be reserved for Laurence Fishburne; his turn as a delusional recluse is both charming and chilling.
Another strength of the ensemble is the ethnic diversity of the cast, including Mexican, West African, Guatemalan, and Japanese. While such multi-national stories are always refreshing, Predators is not free from the stereotypes that can creep into such a concept. The best example is with the Japanese Yakuza mobster. Ozawa Changchein delivers a compellingly honest performance; we believe his commitment to cultural heritage when he picks up a long-abandoned katana. Equally awesome is the subsequent sword fight between he and a Predator. This can be acknowledged as an instantly classic scene while also acknowledging the Western caricature of stone-faced noble Samurai.
As for the Predators themselves, two kinds are depicted in this entry. Each with a bone to pick with the other. It is sort of a family feud with the humans caught in the middle. This aspect is less interesting than the human drama but nonetheless provides great action set pieces; it is called Predators after all, and the film delivers with plenty of explosive weapons and gnarly kills.
by Vincent S. Hannam