Don’t believe all of the inexplicably great reviews for Predators; it is a seriously stupid movie. Billed as a return to the greatness of the original Predator movie, this sequel comes off as a second-rate Avatar, where once entitled actors are brought low, and give bizarre and entertaining performances. Adrien Brody is no Schwarzenegger; hell, he isn’t Glover, either. He does his level best to sell his new badass persona, but every time he says something menacing, you can’t help but crack up. The rest of the crew are an assortment of no-name actors, with the exception of Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, and a reeling Topher Grace.
Things get underway with Royce (Brody) parachuted out of unconsciousness onto a jungle planet. Immediately the movie blows its load by having the infamous mini-gun tear up the jungle, wielded by generic Russian Nikolai. The movie tries to force a tenuous connection to the superior original, but we can’t be fooled for long. Once the players are assembled and a brief synopsis given for each player, things get going. The Predators need a new bag of tricks, since we are privy to their methods, and the movie makes good, giving us some original Predator content. The banter between the humans is self-consciously terrible, everyone doing their best one-liners, but Adrien Brody takes the cake for bad dialogue. While Schwarzenegger or Stallone can deliver this machismo nonsense and make you accept it as part of their manly shtick, this kind of thing coming from a man who won the Academy Award for Best Actor falls somewhere between shocking and hilarious. I bet when he won that Oscar, he didn’t think he’d be the lead in a Predator sequel 8 years down the road.
The graphics and soundtrack are a throwback to the golden age of 80s action, and this helps and hurts the film by turn. The digital matte effects used to show alien moons in the sky or Predator mining equipment looks pretty dated, and the practical Predator suits get a little too much screen time. In the original, the stealthy nature of the Predator made his scarce appearances more valuable, but these new Predators are much more aggressive and prone to showing themselves in the open. To be sure, the new tech and armor looks pretty good, but the movie only feels like the good old days once or twice, notably when the Preds first show up in their optic camouflage. In the end, the action isn’t visceral enough to deliver the memorable violence of the original two movies.
Laurence Fishburne also shows up in one of his weirdest roles to date (minor spoilers herein). You can’t help but notice Fishburne’s remarkable weight gain,;he is wearing Predator armor and is nearly fat enough to be the size of an actual Predator. His short role as a crazed survivor is well acted, but a lack of explanation for his state makes his participation a bit off. Once again Fishburne, who was once a titan of Shakesperean theater, is slumming it in a role much too small for his action movie pedigree. Female lead Alice Braga seems to have been selected for her resemblance to the lady from Predator, and plays an Israeli Defense Force sniper with little backstory. She is supposed to be the moral foil to Brody’s ruthlessness, which rounds out a weak theme about humanity prevailing, lest we become (wait for it) predators!!!
At the end of the movie, you’ve been through a lot of incongruous sets (which try to recall the Alien films), a samurai sword fight between a human and a Predator, and Adrien Brody’s impressive abs smeared with mud as he pretty much rips off Arnold’s tactics exactly. In the end, some action movie rules never change; these highly trained killers fire wildly and waste all their ammunition. Nimrod Antal can make a good movie (Vacancy), but even with Robert Rodriguez backing him up, he isn’t quite up to this task. He doesn’t have the kind of control over large-scale action set pieces that John McTiernan was so good at delivering in the original. The movie is entertaining, but it is also laughably bad at times. At the very least, the R rating spares us from the boring PG13 doldrums with buckets of blood, but you should think real hard about spending your hard-earned movie money on this.