Screened for Portland critics rather late in the day, the Robert Rodriguez-approved hunting party opens today.


WW Critic's Score: 65

The past 23 years have not been kind to dreadlocked, vagina-mouthed intergalactic hunters.

Following the success of John McTiernan's savage Predator in 1987, the franchise spun wildly into a whirlwind of mediocrity, from the lackluster inner-city horror of Predator 2 to two Alien vs. Predator movies that made Freddy vs. Jason seem like Oscar fodder.

No subsequent offering matched the original's grit and grime, the simple story of oversized men with oversized guns blowing the jungle to shit while being knocked off one by one by an invisible alien. With two future governors—Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura—behind the triggers, it was a big, dumb, ultraviolent horror flick on steroids, and its primal jungle setting made for a perfectly stupid and gory sci-fi take on The Most Dangerous Game, with a man in a fantastically iconic rubber suit filling in for General Zaroff.

Thankfully, Predators goes back to the McTiernan mold with a rumble in the jungle once again pitting swaggering machismo against savage killers. Based on a 1994 fan-fiction script by Robert Rodriguez—a man who knows his overkill—Nimrod Antal's take on the franchise brings the series forward by going back to the basics.

Beginning with a stratospheric freefall and relenting very little for its runtime, Predators is pure, macho junk food that will have fans of the original salivating. The twist here is that the aliens have rounded up earth's greatest killers—a black ops mercenary, an Israeli sniper, a Mexican cartel killer, a Yakuza enforcer, a death squad slayer from Sierra Leone, and a serial murderer—and plopped them onto an intergalactic game reserve that resembles the jungle from the original film. Led by a newly buff Adrien Brody with a bad Christian Bale bat-growl, the team wanders through the jungle waiting for the next person to be eviscerated.

And eviscerated they are. Rodriguez and Antal know we don't really give a shit about anything here except cool monsters and even cooler deaths, and between spines being ripped from backs and a yakuza-on-Predator swordfight straight out of a Zatoichi flick, the inventiveness of the kills and the chases is enough to keep even the most rabid fanboy at bay. Lawrence Fishburne breathes life (and much needed comic relief) into the affair with a cameo as a looney-tunes scavenger, Brody growls and stares amicably, and the presence of a few well-crafted monsters (mostly non-CGI) is always welcome.

Still, there is nothing to elevate Predators beyond any other summer fare except that it seems perfectly content to rest on the laurels of its overkill and utter machismo.

Essentially, it's the same film as the original, transplanted to another world with added creature effects and fewer dick jokes. For all its commitment to shooting first and asking questions never, the film doesn't engage the audience beyond the occasional jolt of adrenaline. Aside from a few cool booby traps and some excellent stunt work, most action scenes simply equate to sweaty men firing blindly into the woods or staring down a hunter before being blown into pulp.

Given the talent involved with Predators, it's surprising how little it brings to the forest. Rodriguez, a legendary enfant terrible in the Hollywood set, has for the first time made the exact movie people would expect. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing—I'll take an old-school jungle romp covered in entrails over Avatar's cartoon world any time. But Predators comes off as a Choose Your Own Adventure version of the original, and it takes itself far too seriously. Somewhere in crafting a loving homage to a trash classic, the filmmakers forgot to have fun. R.

Opens today at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century at Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18&IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.