With Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo. Directed by Nimrod Antal. Rated R for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language. 105 minutes.
If you’re wondering which (if any) of the “Predator” films, sequels, and “Alien” movie mash-ups you need to see in advance of PREDATORS, the answer is just the first one. And if you haven’t seen the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film – or saw it a long time ago – that’s okay. You’ll get brought up to speed quickly.
Right from its memorable opening, in which Royce (Adrien Brody) wakes up to find himself in freefall hurtling towards a planet’s surface, “Predators” is an adrenaline rush. Royce is soon joined by several others, not all of whom survive. What they have in common is that they all killers and now they have to figure where they are and how they can get out. As traps are sprung and the explorations continue what becomes clear is that the predator aliens who saw Earth as a place to go hunting in the earlier film now have a better idea. They bring their dangerous human game off-world and hunt them down there.
It is violent and action-packed, with the red and green blood spurting freely (the predators’ blood is the color of Silly String). However, care has been given in not only providing plot twists galore, but also getting us to consider the dilemma they face. Are they better off working together or is it every man for himself? In a mix that includes a female soldier (Alice Braga), a Mexican gangster (Danny Trejo), and a graduate student (Topher Grace), who is the weak link? We know not everyone will make it to the end of the film, so place your bets early. Every time you think you’ve got it figured out, there’ll be a surprise, whether it’s an alien who’s not who he appears to be or a human of whom the same could be said (and if you think that gives anything away, you’re going to be surprised).
It helps that there’s a solid cast, including Brody in a tough guy mode quite different from his sensitive scientist in the recent “Splice,” Laurence Fishburne as a survivor, Topher Grace continuing to show there’s life after “That ’70s Show,” and Alice Braga as a killer with a conscience. Indeed each of the actors get a chance to create a vivid character, although some have longer to do so than others.
Besides the action scenes, the creepiest part of the film may be the alien hunting camp, with skulls and hanging “meat” making us wonder where that prey came from and just how long this has been going on. We’re told they’ve been doing it for several “seasons.” The predators have learned from past mistakes and gotten smarter about hunting humans.
Considering how lame the “Alien vs. Predator” movies were, there was every reason to be nervous about this one, even with the knowledge that an early draft was written by Robert Rodriguez in the early ’90s. “Predators” seems to be a sign that the coulda-been summer “blockbusters” have all come and gone, and perhaps now they’ll start releasing the good movies.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.