Predator is one of the great action movies of the 1980’s. John McTiernan directed the hell out of it, and it is one of the great signature Arnold Schwarzenegger roles. They tried sequelizing it, and then there were the pathetic Alien vs. Predator films – Fox knew there was a franchise here, they just didn’t know how to pull it off. So they hired Robert Rodriguez to produce a new sequel that ignored all the other spin-offs, and to class it up, they ripped off James Cameron by naming it Predators. Nimrod Antal directs Adrian Brody, Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Louis Ozawa Changchein, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, and Oleg Taktarov as a group of killers rounded up by Predators, and let loose on an Alien planet to defend themselves. In this case, the hunters become the hunted until they become hunters hunting the hunters who are hunting them. My review of Predators on Blu-ray after the jump.
Brody is Royce, a black ops kind of guy who is comfortable doing dirt. He’s joined by a sniper in Braga’s Isabelle, a redneck killer in Goggins’s Stans, a seemingly average guy in Grace’s Edwin, and the rest are all unsavory characters of the violent kind. It takes them a little bit to realize that they’ve been dropped onto a different planet, with Predator dogs, and a group of Predators hunting them. It turns out the game can be survived as Noland (Laurence Fishburne) is living proof, but to get off the planet and back home you need some kind of plan, and a way to get a ship off of a predator.
Robert Rodriguez has talked a lot about the wasteful ways of Hollywood – and it’s true, most films cost more than they should – but one should never watch a film and feel that it was done on a budget. And – unfortunately – you can feel the budget limitations of the film. The Predators don’t show up until nearly halfway through the movie, and there on screen presence is kept limited, but not in a way that the title suggests. Really, there’s a bitch predator and three hunter predators who show up to take on the humans, but on screen Predator time seems like less than a half hour – more than half of the film is taken up by humans stumbling around a jungle, and when there’s a Predator on Predator fight, it doesn’t play as exciting as you would think it might be. But this may also tie into Rodriguez’s sensibilities, which is to introduce something reasonably cool and then fumble with it until it leaves screen a little bit later. There’s a predator versus samurai fight that is theoretically cool, but never feels very Akira Kurosawa, more like low rent Quentin Tarantino.
What the film does have is a pretty good cast. Adrian Brody brings a lot to the role by not being the Arnie type, but looks more than competent handling himself in violent situations. And Alice Braga is fine as the girl who is both a woman and a killer, though she’s hamstrung by the final reel. But the best of the bunch is Walton Goggins’s Stans, who plays a redneck serial killer. He has all the best lines in the film, and brings a very Bill Paxton-y energy to the film. Unfortunately some of the characters get the short shrift, and there’s not much to Danny Trejo other than being Trejo, while the nature of the character Topher Grace plays is so obvious early on that the filmmakers would have done better to tip their hand to the audience. The action is consistent, though, and the film moves at a quick enough clip, but it lacks what makes a great sequel great: its own identity. This is a redress of the first film, with different but similar people, and more but no more threatening villains running around in a jungle. Frankly, it makes Predator 2 look better in comparison.
Twentieth Century fox presents the film on Blu-ray in an immaculate widescreen (2.35:1) presentation, with audio in 5.1 DTS-HD surround. It’s a top notch transfer. Extras include a commentary by director Nimrod Antal and producer Robert Rodriquez that’s pretty buddy-buddy. There are motion comics (11 min.), showing cut scenes, like the moment of extraction for four of the characters, and setting up the crucifixion of a smaller alien. Then there’s a making of called “The Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn” (40 min.) which does the standard thing and sells the making of, the stunts and costumes, while “The Chosen” (5 min.) spotlights the film’s characters, with some of the actors talking in character. There’s a Fox Channel “Making of a Scene” for the film (7 min.), with a lot of comments from Goggins. Next up is nine deleted or extended scenes (11 min.), one which has Brody’s character questioning why Topher Grace would be there, and a great scene with Goggins where he wants to have sex. There’s a theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers. There’s also additional BD-Live content, with a Robert Rodriguez introduction, the featurette “Predators as Prey” a set visit, and the film’s theatrical trailer.