Film review by: Witney Seibold
Ostensibly a sequel to “Predator 2” (1990), Nimród Antal‘s “Predators” is a surprisingly well-structured little B picture. Sure, it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, the physics may seem preposterous at times, and the creatures aren’t too fully explained, but it makes sense on its own terms, has a lot of good action scenes, a few good-looking monsters, a few good actors (mostly slumming), and, most importantly, an easy-to-understand setup that they stick with through to the end.
A group of people has found themselves mysteriously droppied into a jungle setting; they wake up in free-fall and have to figure out for themselves that they are wearing parachutes. There is the usual Mouseketeer roll-call of familiar types. There’s the jaded mercenary (Adrian Brody), there’s the tough-talking Sandinista (Alice Braga), there’s the comic relief doctor (Topher Grace), there’s the grizzled Mexican tough (Danny Trejo), there’s the crazy serial killer (Walton Goggins), there’s the Chechnyan stoic (Oleg Taktarov), there’s the soulful African death camp fighter (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, which I dare you to pronounce correctly on the first try), and there’s the slickly-dressed Yakuza guy (Louis Ozawa Chiangchen, who’s from everywhere).
Why have these people been deposited in this jungle? Where is this jungle? How come the sun never goes down? And why these people? Dangerous fighter types? They sound like the roll call from a video game. It doesn’t take them, or us, very long t see that they’ve been deposited in an off-planet game preserve, and are being hunted by a race of dangerous aliens, who like to track down and kill exotic off-world species for sport.
Aliens vs. predators. Done. Laurence Fishburne shows up later as a half-crazed mountain man who has been hiding from the aliens for years. There are alien tooth monsters with claws and horns that weigh as much as the rest of it, some poisonous plants, and plenty of blind, raging gun battles to keep the blood going.
What “Predators” does best, though, comes with its pacing. It is slow to reveal details about the characters, and mercifully holds back the appearance of its central monsters until about 40 minutes in. This gives the film a nice long span to breathe, grow enough character to make the people interesting, and develop an actual sense of atmosphere, a trait all-too-lacking in a lot of recent action flicks. It also cleaves closely to its “R” rating, ensuring the blood and violence that the material demands; too often, such films will clean up their violence in the hopes of catching a larger, younger audience. “Predators” has the good taste to include exploding entrails.
Sure its big dumb ‘splodey sci-fi, but it’s surprisingly good big dumb ‘splodey sci-fi.