Predators | Action/Sci-Fi | rated R (V,G) | starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo, Lawrence Fishburne | directed by Nimrod Antal | 1:46 mins

Having been literally dropped into the jungle via parachute, a group of strangers who all appear to have been engaged in combat in various spots on the world when they were taken, slowly learn that they are being hunted for sport by a highly evolved alien beast intent on wiping them out one by one.

Now that two highly-anticipated Alien vs. Predator movies have come, dissapointed everyone and gone, producer Robert Rodriguez steps into the series to give the Predators their menace back, instead of the honor-bound soldiers who can stand side-by-side with humans. To helm the project Rodriguez has teamed up with Nimrod Antal, who with the impressively tight horror flick Vacancy proved to be a director more capable than any handed the AvP series.

Predators is positioned, not like the reboot it has been promoted as, but a direct sequel to the ’87 original genre favorite. It assumes we know nothing about the Predators and unfolds their world and their abilities to us with a fresh eye, allowing us to escape with it and see them for the first time once again.

Like Vacancy, one of Predators biggest charms is how lean and efficient it is. Almost no fat at all here with Antal sending us into the movie with a nameless amnesiac hero (Adrien Brody) literally falling from sky  – haven’t seen a movie open like that before – and ending right after the action does. No complicating subplots, no romantic entanglements, just hunting. Antal even keeps the “where are we?” exposition section of the movie entertaining, quickly but methodically unrolling first the colorful cast of Earth’s dangerous killers (including Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo and to my delighted surprise Topher Grace) and then the increasingly alien jungle terrain they find themselves in. Predators is a small, sometimes cramped film, but it’s also a colorful one and it moves smoothly from one set piece to the next.

The big surprise here is Adrien Brody going from wussy art-house roles and nerdy Splice scientist flawlessly into ripped badass complete with gravelly action hero voice. Like Liam Neeson in Taken, Brody steps into the role with both feet coming out the year’s most unlikely tough guy. Topher Grace as usual has an indispensible talent for adding personality to the movie that might otherwise be overrun with macho bravado. He is as well-used here as he was mis-cast in Spider-Man 3.

As Rodriguez tends to do, Predators is an unapoligetic boys and their toys movie. Tailor made for Spike TV, it’s a playground of dudes – and one macho woman – with big, cool guns fighting monsters in the outdoors. The Predators themselves are done justice in all of their heat-sensing, blade-wealding, shoulder-mounted-laser-shooting ferociousness. We even get a few new creations to flesh out the Predators universe.

Predators comes into the world with a simple checklist and knocks all of the items out with style. There aren’t very many surprises here (well, one big one), but what it does it does well. With Robert Rodriguez’s focus on creativity, Nimrod Antal’s clean eye for action and no-BS pacing, actors that bring more to the role then we’d probably require and a nice, meaty R-rating to play with, Predators is a different take, but easily the best incarnation of this franchise since the 1987 original.

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