By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Nimrod Antal
STARS Adrien Brody, Alice Braga
It may not have seemed like much at the time, but in retrospect, 1987's Predator now stands as one of the better pictures on Arnold Schwarzenegger's surprisingly underwhelming resume, behind only the first two Terminator films and Total Recall. Predators, on the other hand, won't seem like the cream of anybody's crop; instead, time will dismiss it as yet one more belated sequel hoping to turn name recognition into cash value.
An '80s breeding ground for future governors (Arnold and Jesse Ventura) and a wannabe governor (Sonny Landham), Predator benefited not only from powerful visual effects and brawny performances but also from the muscular direction by Die Hard's John McTiernan, who worked over the streamlined storyline and brought it to rippling life. Director Nimrod Antal can't manage to do the same for Predators, a flabby new variation on that most reliable of short stories, Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game." Instead of Zaroff and his hounds, we get the title fiends and their hounds from hell, four-legged grotesqueries employed to drive the human prey out into the open. Here, the hapless earthlings, all imported to a distant jungle planet for the amusement of the alien hunters, include a humorless mercenary (Adrien Brody), an Israeli soldier (Alice Braga), a murderous convict (Walton Goggins) and the apparent wimp of the group, a meek doctor (Topher Grace).
You know priorities are out of whack when the film's most interesting performer, Machete's Danny Trejo, checks out waaay too early while the worst actor in the bunch, the perpetually hammy Goggins, is allowed to hang around. Laurence Fishburne, who I always assumed couldn't give a bad performance, proves me wrong with a head-scratching turn as the only survivor of the predators' previous hunting expeditions. And Adrien may have the Oscar, but he's no Arnie, and he turns out to be a rather colorless action hero.
Speaking of the action, which of course is the film's raison d'être, it's dutifully handled, but there isn't much here that quickens the pulse or jolts the imagination. In fact, if there's a central failing in Predators, it's that true innovation is in desperately short supply. The film comes armed with memorable monsters and a workable premise (the hunters become the hunted), but by offering little more than one-dimensional variations of the original's entertaining characters as well as basically duplicating its lush forest setting, this one qualifies as little more than a bungle in the jungle.