After two poor Alien vs. Predator showings, Predators returns to the tried, true, and successful formula off setting ’em up and knocking ’em down.
A group of fighters, prisoners, and criminals (Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) find themselves mysteriously air-dropped into a jungle with no recollection of how they were taken or when they were transported. Each a killer in their own right (except for a panic-stricken, self-professed medical doctor), the group forms an uneasy alliance in an effort to improve their chances for survival. Unfortunately for them, not only is it impossible to walk out of the jungle, they’re also not the only ones in it.
Ever since a link to the Alien franchise was suggested, the Predator franchise was put on hold until the AVP debacle could happen (regardless of intent.) With one so-so showing and one poorer sequel, it took producer Robert Rodriguez to re-pitch the original formula with a twist and take it back to its small budget, blood and sweat roots. The thinking part of this storyline is reserved for making a single decision: fight or flight, and neither promises much in the way of survival. While the script provides just enough back story to make every victim… er, character interesting, it suggests something far more sinister for all you deep thinkers out there once the carnage stops and credits roll.
As shown in the trailers, our so-called heroes wake mid-drop into a jungle, and it isn’t much of a secret that they’re not in Kansas anymore. This revelation changes up the game in several ways, not the least of which is the existence of an intricate network of spies and/or procurers living among a population to tag and bag potential targets and delivery them to the hunting preserve. It might be an interesting bit for a future sequel to see how far it goes and how exactly it’s accomplished. Are regular humans involved? Is the government? Does a standing agreement with Predator-kind exist to offer up the dregs of humanity from those bred in violence?
On a less enjoyable note, the film also introduces new bigger, badder Predators, dubbing our favorite (and apparently more honorable) version the “classic” version while the new generation fights plain ol’ dirty (read: dishonorable bastards.) It’s true that AVP played up the Predators as the good monsters and the Aliens as bad, and with Aliens out of the equation, it isn’t clear if there are many factions of Predators or if this was a passing of the torch. Is there a civil war in their future, or does each new generation simply improve upon the last? After thoughts aside, Predators is a testosterone-charged, card carrying NRA-member kind of film where you either step up or get stepped on, and it’s refreshing to see a franchise returned to its roots still delivering the goods.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)