It's fast-paced, full of great fight scenes, and isn't bloated with awful CGI padding. The unpretentious monster movie Predators is a rip-roaring tale of supersolidier aliens fighting supersoldier humans, and it's damn good fun. Plus, it even has interesting characters!
Predators is a welcome dose of escapism in this summer of effects-heavy stinkers. The movie is set in the present day, decades after an elite group of special forces encountered a "thing" in the jungle - the very "thing" that Arnold Schwarzenegger beat in the first Predator flick. (Producer Robert Rodriguez has said the movie's name is a callback to Aliens, suggesting that it's the second in the series - so forget about all those other lame sequels.)
Taking its cues from that spare, crackly original movie, Predators wastes no time hurling you right into the action. We start literally in mid-air, watching the unnamed protagonist (Adrian Brody) waking from a drug-induced stupor in freefall over a massive, weird-looking jungle. He may be plunging to his death, but he manages to figure out how to open his parachute in time - only to find himself strafed by a Russian commando's Gatling gun.
And so we meet our cast of characters, a perfect collection of deadly scum and soldiers who include black ops dude Brody, along with a Yakuza assassin, a Mexican drug cartel heavy (Danny Trejo), a death squad guy from Sierra Leone, an IDF sniper (Alice Braga), a Russian supersoldier, a murderer snatched from death row, and a nerdy doctor (Topher Grace). The group comes together under the command of Brody and Braga, who are also the only people who figure out right away that they're actually on another planet and need to track down their captors so they can steal their ship and get the hell back to Earth. Yes! Proactive heroes with a plan!
I cannot emphasize enough how well-paced this movie is. The humans are being hunted by a group of Predators, and there's no waiting until the movie's final moments to get to the smackdown. In fact, we learn almost immediately that something weird is going on with our Predator guys. The humans track some of the Predators' seriously vicious alien dogs back to the Predator camp - and find, among the skinned bodies of beasties, a Predator tied crucifix-style to an alien artifact. What the hell? Immediately, we know there's something more complicated going on than humans vs. Predators, and that's very cool - we have a mystery to figure out (WTF is up with the tied-up Predator?), a creepy world to explore, and some alien badasses to kill.
The dialogue between our unlikely heroes, at its best, is spiky and funny - another callback to the original Predator, where the banter was as good as the fighting. And we slowly get to know some of the characters better as the central human conflict evolves: Should they fight for individual survival, or work together to save each other?
There's also a great scene where the group runs into a guy who has manged to survive on the planet in hiding for years. Played with over-the-top twitchiness by Laurence Fishburne, the guy delivers possibly the most entertaining infodump I've ever seen. Stuff like Fishburne's performance is what makes Predators such a classy B-movie, paying homage to masters (and masterpieces) of the genre without ever taking itself too seriously.
Sure, there's some unevenness - it wouldn't be a B-movie if there weren't a few scenes where you clutch your head and mutter things like, "Really? They just now thought to look up into the sky and notice that there are a bunch of gas giants floating overhead?" And Topher Grace's doctor character has a few good lines, but he's also the one false note in an otherwise sleek action cast - plus, the "big reveal" about him is pretty yawn-worthy.
But honestly, these problems do very little to undercut the shoot-em-up fun that rockets this movie along. Predators is everything a summer movie should be, and a little bit more.