Cinema News and Reviews for the Rest of Us

Review: ‘Predators’

It’s hard to believe that the first Predator film is 23 years old.  Since its release in 1987, there’s been one bad sequel, hundreds of TBS “Movies For Guys Who Like Movies” Sunday afternoons, and a tie-in with the nasty creatures from the Alien films.  That merger of franchises worked quite well in comic books and video games, but it made for a less than stellar film run, and after the last such failed project it seemed as though the Predator brand was finally dead.  Not so, apparently, because 20th Century Fox and director Nimrod Antal have brought us yet another Predator film.  And the results are surprisingly solid, if otherwise unspectacular.

Antal has shown himself to be a skilled craftsman of solid if unspectacular genre fare, having helmed the horror flick Vacancy and the heist thriller Armored, and he continues that trend here.  We’re launched right into the action as a motley crew of human killers from all corners of the globe land on what turns out to be a strange planet, not to mention an alien hunting preserve.  From there the film is almost entirely action.  And that’s certainly no a complaint.  Antal handles the set pieces with confidence and panache and shows off some interesting compositions that keep the viewer engaged as the cliched genre tropes fly by the screen.  He knows exactly what he wants the film to be and executes his project toward that goal successfully.  It’s just a shame that he doesn’t expand on some of the interesting ideas that he introduces in the process, which may have lifted his work above the merely solid.

The original Predator banked itself on testosterone-heavy action and stomach-churning violence, but there was always that inherent subtext that probed the disturbing nature of our existence as blood-thirsty hunters for sport.  The predator in that film was doing the same thing we do to deer and fowl in our own forests, and in that manner the film forced at least a moment of self-reflection.  Predators threatens to expand on that idea further, but it leaves its ideas hanging.  It touches on a notion of people sharing the cinematic space with creatures who are monsters in much the same way as themselves.  Some of the characters even express a disturbing comfort among these merciless creatures, so similar are their basic violent and predatory instincts.  But again, these ideas aren’t explored to a meaningful extent.  They’re just thrown out there and then swiftly supplanted by another stock genre action set piece.

I will say that there is one real surprise in a film that has few of them besides its overall nature as a solid and entertaining genre offering.  Lawrence Fishburn actually does same great work here with limited screen time, playing against his Morpheus wise-man type as an unhinged and volatile survivor on the alien planet.  His time onscreen is the most interesting part of the film, and the other actors can’t match him because they simply aren’t given a whole lot to work with.  But they play their parts well and, for the most part, they die well and in style, and isn’t that pretty much what you’re looking for in a Predator movie?

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