Die hard fans of producer Robert Rodriguez’s films – like From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror and Sin City, to name some favourites – might be inclined to cut the film more slack than if he wasn’t involved. Likewise, Sci fi fans chomping at the bit for this re-imagining (a word that Rodriguez dislikes, incidentally) of the original 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator might also be predisposed to be kind, despite its myriad of flaws. But what about those who just want a good sci-fi action film with blood, gore and aliens?
Chances are that everyone seeing this will leave the cinema with mixed feelings, unsure whether, minus the SFX, Oscar winning actor and impressive legacy, they would have been quite as compelled to watch to the end a film whose clunky dialogue is teetering between too rubbish to be funny the entire length of the film, and whose plot could have been scripted by a three year old. (Except that it wasn’t – Rodriguez wrote it himself, albeit 16 years ago).
If you’ve never seen the original films, here’s a quick catch up: an elite team of humans on a mission to rescue hostages from the jungle are hunted by alien Predators who can make themselves invisible as well as being hard as nails and uglier than Jordan after a hydrochloric acid facial. Predators takes us from earth onto the alien’s home planet, where human “predators” – an Israeli sniper, a hired mercenary and a serial killer on death row to name a few – have been unceremoniously dropped out of a plane to be hunted down by the Predators on their home turf.
Adrien Brody – suddenly sporting the kind of bulging biceps that a 25 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger would have envied – plays Royce, an implausibly gravel-voiced lone ranger turned reluctant leader, who helps the motley crew of degenerates to turn on the alien predators and play them at their own game – mostly unsuccessfully, but then, in a film like this, it’s clear that most of the cast are going to die one by one, so it’s really the death scenes that punctuate the film more than the snappy dialogue or plot twists – of which there are very few that can’t be seen a mile off.
There’s a typically menacing turn from Rodriguez favourite Danny Trejo and Topher Grace, as dubious doctor Edwin provides characteristically excellent throwaway lines (his 2 minute conversation with the serial killer is one of the few laugh out loud moments), building on a solid reputation as Hollywood’s comedy sidekick go to guy. And aside from a manic few minutes from Laurence Fishburne channelling a myriad of losing-it characters from Lost, the rest of the cast, particularly Brody, appear to be channelling 70’s porn stars and second rate cartoon characters. It’s a comic book style that works well for Rodriguez but less so for director Nimrod Antal, who, despite his impressive work in 2003’s Kontroll, simply doesn’t have that same panache.
If you’re looking for psychological depth, save your money – what little there is frankly, embarrassingly bad and the characters remain disappointingly shallow, despite their endless drip-feed of personal exposition. But if all you’re after is some genuinely impressive effects, some mildly scary monsters that, in my mind don’t look as though they’d have slowed down Buffy back in the day and 107 minutes of a jungle based gore-fest with added angry aliens, you can’t go far wrong here.