"Predators" Hits Most of the Notes in Pitting Badasses vs. Aliens

This Robert Rodriguez–produced sequel goes back into the bush to follow 1987's Predator—a sci-fi horror that put the multi-megaton American stud-soldiers of Reagan-era action in the infra-red, stalking POV of a higher-tech galactic Superpower.

This time, U.S. black ops turned soldier-of-fortune Royce (Adrien Brody, knotty with new muscle) literally plummets into uncharted jungle terrain. Mind-wiped and stranded, he finds a likewise-disoriented gaggle of international badmen yanked from Mexican cartels, the Chechnyan front, Sierra Leonean death squadrons, and death row, rounded out by a femme sniper (Alice Braga) and an unarmed comic-relief Topher Grace.

Middle-range genre man Nimród Antal (Control, Armored) carries the burden of franchise-expectation without undue solemnity, conducting his Dirty Octet through the slow-dawning revelation that they're on a game preserve, hand-picked for predator hunters—then cranking up the grinder. The loyalties and tensions in this hell-is-other-mercenaries premise might have been more deviously rigged. There could be more open pleasure in the exploitation-movie concept (only Walton Goggins's con really basks in villainy).

Louis Ozawa Changchien's silent Yakuza suddenly stopping for a samurai showdown makes no sense unless motivated by inscrutable Asian motives. But doing The Most Dangerous Game is, for action directors, what covering "Satisfaction" is to bar bands; if you hit most of the notes, it'll do.

 
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