Predators

Quick– name the top 20 action movie stars in the business today. You’d probably start with any of the stars of next month’s The Expendables, right? Jason Statham? Jet Li? Heck, even Stallone’s apparently still got a little something left in the tank.

What about that guy who won an Oscar for his performance of a piano player who endured the holocaust in 2002’s The Pianist?

Well, it turns out Adrien Brody can lug around a big huge gun and kill aliens just about as well as anyone. Despite admitting he wasn’t the “obvious choice” for essentially the same role Schwarzenegger played in the original 1987 Predator, Brody pulls it off in the 2010 sequel, Predators.

Brody plays a bad-ass mercenary who’s dropped into an alien jungle (…literally. The movie begins with him regaining consciousness as he free-falls onto a distant planet). He’s joined there by 7 strangers… each, it seems more dangerous than the next. Among them are a drug cartel enforcer, a convicted murder/rapist, and a member of an African death squad. Turns out, though, they’re no longer the hunters, they’re the hunted… game, if you will, on an alien nature preserve.

Directed by Nimród Antal (Armored) and produced by Robert “Grindhouse” Rodriguez, Predators re-boots a franchise long-since left for dead. 1987’s Predator and 1990’s Predator 2 have both gone on to become cult favorites and Saturday afternoon cable staples, but the attempted kick-starts by the two Alien vs. Predator flicks in 2004 and 2007 failed miserably.

Rodriguez, thankfully, has a deep fondness and respect for the originals, and it helps make Predators a fun romp, worthy of carrying on the name.

Packed with suspense and a presented as more of an engrossing mindgame than an all-out big-bang-boom action flick, it’s certainly entertaining, despite the stock characters (token black man, token woman, token odd man out). There are plenty of high-tension scenes and more than a handful of homages to the originals, and those, coupled with a handful of funny one-liners and some solid shootouts make Predators a better-than-average adventure flick.

Brody, sporting a crew-cut and a cut physique, easily proves that there’s more to him than just great acting skills. The fact that he plays Royce with a quiet calm and a cool head makes the character instantly likeable, and you’ll be reminded more of Bruce Willis in his heyday than anyone else.

The effects, particularly the aliens, their infrared tracking, and their invisibility, are all done well and hearken back to the first movies. Throw in what amounts to an extended cameo by another great American actor, and you got yourself a solid movie.

The screenplay’s more than a little silly in parts (there’s plenty of the ol’ clichéd action movie lines), but by and large you get what you’re expecting with a movie like this– a fine, mindless way to spend a summer night.

3/5 stars