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Review: 'Predators' is 'Darwinism in action'

By Tom Charity, Special to CNN
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Adrien Brody takes on 'Predators'
  • "Predators" is the fourth sequel to the 1987 "Alien" knockoff "Predator"
  • Film stars Adrien Brody, Alice Braga and Topher Grace
  • The movie follows a ragtag group trying to survive being hunted

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(CNN) -- "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle once told me you have three minutes to announce your intentions, to make your mark at the start of your movie. Nimrod Antal's "Predators" doesn't take three seconds: A face in close-up, screaming into the wind, and then -- in long shot -- the body in free fall, a man desperately fumbling to release his parachute before crashing through the jungle canopy below.

Fasten your seat belts, it's gonna be a bumpy night.

The man -- and we don't discover his name until the last few seconds of the movie -- doesn't know where he is or why someone has thrown him out of a plane, but he's played by Adrien Brody, probably the least likely action star of the season, but an actor who can deliver a terse one-liner as if he's been understudying Clint Eastwood his whole life.

He is not alone. The armed and dangerous misfits who are his new comrades make a rather soiled rainbow coalition.


They include gangsters from Mexico and Japan; soldiers from the U.S., Russia and Africa; a convict; and -- for good keeping -- a doctor. The cast features Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov, the spectacularly named Mahershalalhashbaz Ali and plain old Topher Grace.

The where and the how may be obscure, but they soon realize the why: Someone or something is out for a little sport, and they are the prey.

Yes, the latest (fourth!) sequel to 1987's "Alien" knockoff "Predator" is also the umpteenth version of the Richard Connell story "The Most Dangerous Game," which was first filmed back in 1932, starring Joel McCrea and a young actress named Fay Wray, shortly before her famous run-in with a large ape.

Maybe movie tastes haven't changed as much as we would like to think over the decades. We're still excited and repelled by the idea of what might be lurking out there in the deep, dark woods, even if it turns out to be a ham actor in a monster suit.

"Predators" is simply Darwinism in action: a primitive but still potent illustration of the survival of the fittest. In this case, the most physically attractive stars are your best bets to stay the course. And, inevitably, the most "ethnic" are the most likely to bite the dust.

At least screenwriters Alex Litvak and Michael Finch have rescued "Predator" from the dead end represented by the "Alien" faceoff.

Produced by Robert Rodriguez, the new film is an old-school, gung-ho B movie -- a kind of anti-"Avatar" -- delivered with considerable conviction by Antal, a talented Hungarian-American director.

Antal attracted Hollywood talent spotters with the inventive Budapest thriller "Kontroll," but he seems equally content putting his hand to the tried and the tested in American genre fare like "Vacancy, "Armored" and now "Predators."

Antal has a good eye, but he doesn't camp up his movie-savvy the way Rodriguez likes to. There are sly in-jokes for flavor, and of course it's all preposterous -- that's part of the trip -- but Antal is a straight shooter. He doesn't want to tickle us, he wants us in there fighting, battling it out with his beleaguered bad boys.

This back-to-basics approach serves him well and, if you were a fan of the first "Predator" film, reclaims a lot of lost ground. But Antal is going to have to find more original material if he's to truly make his mark.