PREDATORS is a murky, would-be pedantic, mess of a flick. It goes to the trouble of informing its audience that it is a continuation of 1987s PREDATOR, but takes no trouble before or after to deliver any reason for revisiting the premise of humans hunted for sport by aliens who have conquered invisibility cloaks. The special effects are anything but. The direction is clueless. The story is far-fetched and silly without the relief of irony or camp or suspense. The writing is painful, as in when someone voices relief about having escaped a dire situation, thats exactly when something dire happens.
The parachuted prey are dropped onto an alien world while asleep. Sometimes the parachute opens. Sometimes it doesnt. When it does, its for the international cross-section of dangerous humanity, who all conveniently speak English, to figure out what is happening. Poly-horned quadrupeds and a sky that doesnt look right tips them off that they are not in Kansas anymore, nor are they in Japan, Mexico, Chechnya, or the good old U.S. of A. Thanks to brainy and coolly competent mercenary Adrien Brody, the tough but nurturing commando Alicia Braga, and the human resident of the alien jungle (Lawrence Fishburn), they work out that they have been chosen for a most dangerous game. They also work out that there is an alien ship that can take them home. How that will happen is one of those ci-mentioned bits of far-fetched silliness.
While attempting to be existential, the flick becomes obtuse and, worse, obvious. Why among the killers, gang enforcers, mercenaries, and battle-hardened soldiers is there a doctor (Topher Grace)?
As a character study, PREDATORS goes for the cliché every time. The death-row inmate (Walton Goggins) daydreams about mindless violence, the putative Muslim (Mahershalalalhashbaz Ali) has a background in terrorism, the Chicano (Danny Trejo) is a gang-banger, the Yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien) is inscrutable. He also prefers to feel the mud between his toes, which is the sort of embellishment writers trot out when they are trying to be quirky, and which is glaringly obvious as such when no reason is given for such behavior in an unknown and bug-infested jungle. Brody is amoral, stalwart and wondrously one-dimensional. The only interesting person is Grace, who grasps the essential absurdity at work here and, eyebrow cocked knowingly, runs with it. Fishburne, as the wacka-wacka human run to ground for several hunting seasons, has a curiously serene detachment that fights valiantly against the bad writing and loses, but with honor.
As an action flick, it is a disaster. Director Nimrod Antal doesnt just miss opportunities to build suspense or deliver a surprise, he runs from them as though his life depended on it. Would that he could have brought such a sense of urgency, or even a pulse, to the carnage depicted on screen.
The most compelling moment comes when Brody prepares to take on one of the invisible aliens. Stripped to the waist and covered in flesh-colored mud the better to confuse the infra-red vision the aliens use, he is buffed to perfection with biceps that bulge without being overly assertive about it. Why this was saved until the end is a question for the ages.