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Predators (Nimród Antal, 2010)


After over two decades and five entries into the series, the Predator franchise gets what might be its best entry yet with Nimrod Antal’s unambitious but accomplished retread Predators. Following a chain of movies that started with John McTiernan’s 1987 Predator, Predators features a motley crew of thugs stranded in a jungle as a group of aliens hunts them down. This sci-fi variation on Richard Connell’s classic short story “The Most Dangerous Game” is obviously limited in scope, but in the right hands the Predator premise can offer satisfying action-movie thrills. Luckily, Nimród Antal knows how to craft an unpretentious suspense film. His focused, assured work here is sure to further cement his reputation as an unfussy genre filmmaker. 

The first act of Predators attempts to build a mystery about the nature of the characters’ situation. Were it not for the audience’s knowledge that the film is an entry in the Predator franchise, Antal’s slow-build approach (similar to that he used to more effective ends in Vacancy) might have really worked, but as it is structured, much of the first half of the movie is spent with the audience well ahead of the characters. The level of suspense in this section suffers somewhat even though Antal does an excellent job gradually doling out information. Before long, it is revealed that the cast of eight characters has been transported into a game preserve, of sorts, where they are expected to serve as prey to an alien race bent on improving its hunting skills.  

While leading man Adrian Brody’s time spent fighting the predator mano-a-mano in Predators is disappointingly limited in comparison to the first, Schwarzenegger-starring film (the hunt never becomes a game of cat-and-mouse), this entry as a whole compares favorably with the McTiernan cult classic that spawned the series. Antal paces his story effectively, and films his action sequences so that there is rarely any confusion about what is taking place. The series of set pieces slowly builds in scale and intensity, climaxing with a satisfying, open-ended conclusion. By its nature, Predators is not an original film, but as fourth sequels go, it’s almost exceptionally well-handled. What it lacks in imagination, it makes up in execution. It fulfills its limited potential, which is more than can be said of most of this summer’s movies.



Jeremy Heilman