Adrien Brody becomes the latest commando to tangle with the mandible-mouthed interplanetary hunters in “Predators,” a series reboot courtesy of producer Robert Rodriguez and genre director Nimód Antal.
“Predators” begins with promise. A group of hardened killers wake up in an undisclosed jungle, which turns out to be an alien game preserve the predators use as their own private hunting grounds. The premise of taking eight loners and forcing them to work together in order to survive has potential, as the does the ensemble cast, which features Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov, Topher Grace, and Walton Goggins among others.
But “Predators” quickly descends from the frantic euphoria of its opening into a routine slog that fails to excite or impress. Screenwriters Alex Litvak and Michael Finch got the big things right: the return to the jungle, the military thugs, and the predators themselves, but all of that is lost in a plot that never fully takes shape. The movie spends plenty of time early on building tension as the characters try to come to grips with their surroundings, but when they finally meet the titular hunters, the scene is pretty underwhelming.
What’s more, the movie spends plenty of time with the characters, but fails to establish much of a connection with any of them, something that can be forgiven in an action movie, but none of these hardened killers ever really establish themselves as the caliber of badass worthy of the predators’ attention. This is far more unforgivable and especially frustrating to any fan of the original.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Antal can’t decide what kind of movie he wants to direct. At times “Predators” is a standard action movie, at others it’s a low-tension suspense piece, and at other times it’s even a mystery, complete with third-act twist. In one scene, Antal may be directly acknowledging the original and in another –– particularly the final battle –– he’s outright paraphrasing.
At its worst, “Predators” is a highly literal translation, answering, “What if we made the original, only with more of them?” A question nobody asked.
Kudos to Brody, not only for stepping out of his comfort zone, but doing so successfully. He brings a confidence to his role that is well suited, as he barks orders and makes tactical movements look both specific and calculated. In lesser hands his character could have been interchangeable with the rest of the movie’s thug survivors.
But a strong lead performance and a decent premise aren’t enough to save “Predators” from becoming a boring and repetitive grind, that never really picks up steam and worse yet, isn’t much fun. It’s not a bad movie on a technical level, just ineffective and boring.