C

Predators

Having already logged two features, two Alien crossovers, and countless novels, videogames, and comic-book spin-offs, the Predator franchise has been recycled and re-imagined more times than its thin premise of alien hunters would seem capable of withstanding. So credit Predators, the latest reboot, for devising an appropriately ridiculous (and irresistibly pulpy) hook: Rather than having the aliens come to Earth and murder humans for sport, the most vicious warriors on our planet—mercenaries, a yakuza, a death-row inmate, etc.—have been exported to theirs. Call it The Most Dangerous-est Game. The greatest hunters are now the greatest huntees, reduced to dangerous quarry for a superior species to pick off and bungee to their truck beds. It’s just a pity that Predators fails to recognize its own patent absurdity.

The opening shot finds grizzled black-ops loner Adrien Brody tumbling from the sky, regaining consciousness just in time to parachute to safety. He doesn’t know where he is or how he got there, and other mystified agents of death soon join him, including veterans from various war zones (Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a crisply dressed yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a criminal (Walton Goggins), and a doctor (Topher Grace) whose purpose isn’t immediately apparent. They spend much of the movie figuring out what the audience already knows, all while fending off an enemy that’s stronger, stealthier, and has home-field advantage. 

Of the formidable cast, only Goggins seems to be having any fun, as he applies his bad-guy charisma from The Shield and Justified to a gleefully unrepentant monster. But director Nimród Antal and writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch treat this piece of fanfic juvenilia with gravity that it doesn’t begin to merit, with Brody doing his best Christian Bale impersonation as the burdened, gravel-voiced anti-hero. Since leaving Hungary for Hollywood after his insta-cult favorite Kontroll, Antal has shown a facility for doing solid work in various genres, including horror (Vacancy) and heist (Armored) movies. But after so many iterations in every possible medium, the Predator series needed a shot of vitality, not another workmanlike go-around. SSDP: Same shit, different planet.

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