It’s funny the effect that development hell can have on a project. This one, for instance, was supposed to have been directed by Robert Rodriguez, but ended up being a “Rodriguez presents …” title, with the unknown Hungarian director Nimród E. Antal at the helm. It can be likened in many ways to Pitch Black – an abandoned Alien 3 script rescued by then-unknown David Twohy. Accounting for inflation, the budget, box office and critical reception aren’t too far apart, though Predators is nowhere near as good a film. Even so, it’s a just sequel to the first Predator movie – mostly because Predator was a bit crap. Oh, come on, it was! Fun though, oh yes, plenty of fun.


So, skipping neatly over Predator 2 and the Alien vs Predator franchise, our film starts with a bunch of strangers violently awoken in a strange place. Each of them has a dark past, so the battle for survival becomes some sort of personal quest for atonement, with each being picked off one by one by terrifying monsters.

See what I mean about the Pitch Black reference?



The key differences are that the direction on Pitch Black was very assured, with a distinctive cinematic style. Antal’s is competent, but generic. Pitch Black made a tiny budget go a very long way (I still can’t believe how little it cost to make!). Predator just looks like a low-budget horror – the CGI is great, but the rest of the film is as cheap-looking as the AvP films.

The biggest problem is casting. Though the likes of Vin Diesel and Radha Mitchell were wholly unknown before Pitch Black, the whole cast was so talented that it really brought to life a clever script that didn’t patronise its audience, and looking back, it’s tough to think of better actors who could play those roles. Predators seems to wish that almost anyone else was playing those parts, with only Laurence Fishburne and Danny Trejo looking at ease in their roles. Antal told everybody early on that he “can make anybody look tough. What [he] can’t do is teach them how to act” – unfortunately the result is Adrien Brody method-acting being a tough guy rather than being a tough guy. He might have packed on 25lb of muscle for the role, but he doesn’t have the natural machismo of someone like Hugh Jackman. The rest of the stunt-double casting includes Alice Braga in a role that should be played by Michelle Rodriguez; Walton Goggins in what is clearly Joe Pantoliano’s part; and Oleg Taktarov doing his best Dolph Lundgren impression. They put in competent performances, but you spend so much time imagining their more expensive counterparts in the role that it becomes distracting.

I can forgive Predators for being silly, because it’s hardly a work of art, but it’s ghoulishly entertaining rather than having any real sense of tension. However sincere Antal’s wish for a more cerebral chapter in the Predators franchise, what he got was a typical brainless popcorner.

That’s not to say this sucks, and I’d happily watch it again. It does a good enough job of generating interest in its alien environment and creepy aggressors: who are the Bezerker Predators? Are they Alien hybrids? It also achieves its goal of making you care at least a little bit who lives and who dies. It’s a competent B-movie that dreams of being a great film.

But then Predator was crap, really, if we’re honest.



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