'Predators' is old-school fun
It seems silly calling the original Predator subtle, what with
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse "The Body" Ventura mowing down guerillas, jungle
foliage and everything under the sky with the loudest machine guns - and manly screaming - 1987 had
But put it against the frenetic, shaky, quick-cut style camerawork that dominates modern action cinema, and you'll see what I mean.
Most action directors seem to take the term "fast-paced" too literally, making sure their shooting style mirrors the quick-moving narrative.
Not director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy), who, with producer Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), has made an old-school, action-packed, suspenseful and, most importantly, fun sequel in Predators.
Predators hits the ground running, literally. Antal wastes no time establishing his characters and their predicament - namely waking up mid-freefall over a mysterious jungle. Self-opening parachutes guide them to safety, which they soon learn is only relative.
There's a no-nonsense mercenary (Adrien Brody, The Pianist), a Mexican gang enforcer (Danny Trejo, From Dusk Till Dawn), an Israeli Defense Forces sniper (Alice Braga, City of God), a convicted murderer (Walton Goggins, Miracle at St. Anna), a Russian Spetznatz soldier (Oleg Taktarov, Righteous Kill), a Sierre Leone death squad officer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), a Japanese Yakuza hitman (Louis Ozawa Changchien, Fair Game) and a seemingly misplaced doctor (Topher Grace, Spider-Man 3).
It doesn't take our wayward "heroes" long to realize that they, considered predators in their respective environments, perhaps with the exception of the doctor, are now the prey, being stalked by unseen and deadly forces. To make matters worse, they're on another planet.
Their stalkers are, of course, Predators, the gruesome and disturbingly mouthed aliens introduced in the 1987 film, its enjoyable 1990 sequel and the dismal Alien vs. Predator schlock that followed. Fortunately, Antal dismisses the AVP setup for a film that firmly stands as the third in the Predator series and, unlike its recent predecessors, is worth watching.
Well-shot and effectively framed, Predators follows a "10 Little Indians" meets "The Deadliest Game" sort of arc, meaning we know what's going to happen, just not how. But there's also an "if" factor, which keeps suspense flowing and modest character development in check.
As an ensemble, the cast couldn't be better. Brody, taking a surprising but effective turn as an action hero, brings an Eastwoodian gruffness to his protagonist, whose name we don't even learn till near the film's conclusion.
Trejo, a Robert Rodriguez staple, is always fun to watch, while Grace's fish-out-of-water doctor offers some practical comic relief. Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), playing a long-time marooned soldier, appears all too briefly, but manages to steal his meager scenes and then some.
For fans of the original, there's obvious homage to its source, but Predators' old-school, R-rated action, with stunts favored over computer-generated imagery (though there are a couple blatant exceptions), is easily accessible for series newcomers - and a welcome breath of fresh air in a summer of forgettable blockbusters.
Predators, rated R for intense violence, profanity and disturbing images, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.