1987’s Predator spawned a multi-million dollar franchise and a gluttony of terrible ideas, two of which made their way to the big screen in Aliens Vs. Predator and its wholly awful sequel. The original Predator, despite a mixed critical reception at the time of release is remembered fondly by most and frequently finds its way onto ‘top 50 action movie’ lists across the internet, written by journalists and bloggers alike -and, if we’re counting, two of its stars also went on to become US governors in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura. There’s still hope for Carl Weathers yet.
Three years later and Predator 2 saw everybody’s favourite dreadlocked alien make its way from the jungles of Guatemala to the streets of Los Angeles, with an all new cast headlined by Danny Glover and Gary Busey. It had the same state-of-the-art effects and the same Stan Winston behind the Predator character, but it was found sorely lacking when stacked up against it’s younger brother.
Around a year after the release of Predator 2, Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Desperado) wrote an early script for a further instalment in the franchise, which 20th Century Fox would turn down due to budget scale worries. Well over a decade later and that script would form the basis for Predators, with Rodriguez producing and Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) directing.
It’d be easy to overload a sequel such as this with homages and tributes to these predecessors, but Predators never once veers down the path of outright imitation and repetition. While it does tip its hat a few times (and to other films) it’s never done with a wink and a nudge, choosing to be subtle instead.
Which is one thing that the characters certainly aren’t. Portrayed by a venerable cast including Academy Award-winning Adrien Brody, cult icon and long-time Rodriguez muse Danny Trejo, as well as Lawrence Fishburne in his best role since forever, the cast list packs a heavy punch. Parachuted into an unknown jungle and all suffering from temporary amnesia, they quickly discover that something is awry -they’re all murderers, while perhaps not in the eyes of the law. Gangsters, mercenaries, soldiers or out-and-out criminals, the only anomaly on the list is Topher Grace’s doctor character, who is quite possibly there for his role in the diabolical Spider-man 3.
The plot doesn’t venture very far from here, as you’d expect. The body count adds up as Adrien Brody’s voice becomes increasingly indistinguishable from Christian Bale’s Batman growl (Why?!), and it’s not long before our ‘heroes’ realise that they’re not up against an earthly foe. There’s some more than acceptable set pieces and the action moves at a brisk pace, only slowing down to channel some of the horror elements that Predator did so well.
This is really the film that Predator 2 should have been â€“ it’s fast, it’s fun and it really evokes the spirit of John McTiernan’s 1987 original. In 2010, we’ve arguably seen it all done before but is that such a bad thing?
(image: Adrien Brody and Alice Braga in Predators)