Eight Earth people mostly professional soldiers and criminals - are abducted and parachuted into a jungle on an alien world. As they try to co-operate to ensure their survival, an unseen enemy stalks them for sport.
John McTiernan’s muscular Predator, which pitted Arnold Schwarzenegger against an alien big game hunter, was a popular hit in 1987, but has struggled as a franchise. With Arnie replaced by Danny Glover in an underperforming Predator 2 and a pop culture profile maintained by comic book spin-offs (eg: Batman vs Predator), these also-ran ETs stayed on the star-map only by latching onto a more famous monster in game, comic and movie iterations of the Alien vs Predator concept. Predators can look down on Species, but only just.
This is essentially Predator 3, a dusted-off 1994 script by Robert Rodriguez (who produces) handed over to Nimrod Antal. It forgets anything post-Predator and spends a while on a different set-up which winds up delivering the same ingredients: sweaty macho grunts + jungle + alien huntsmen + killed-off one-by-one hardnuts + loner hero who seems to take this all personally. Alica Braga, playing an Israeli sniper, even looks like Predator heroine Elpidia Carrillo. Gawky Adrien Brody, cast effectively against type as a merc with malice, can’t fill Arnie’s fatigues – though when the shirt comes off, you can tell he’s logged serious gym time – and relies instead on a more Rodriguez-like simmering intensity with bursts of violence and tactical ruthlessness.
The supporting cast fall into the don’t-get-too-attached-because-they-won’t-be-here long category. The most interesting is the smart-suited, close-mouthed yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien), who slips off his shoes to wriggle his toes in offworld mud and performs the sword-moves in the best Earth vs Predatorworld duel scene. The rest are walking clichés: a Russian hulk (Oleg Taktarov), a chatty serial murderer (Walton Goggins), an African Death Squad killer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) and a Danny Trejo-type cocaine cartel hatchet man (unsurprisingly, Danny Trejo). A guest star shows up mid-film, and delivers a funny monologue, but the biggest missed opportunity is that – again – the monsters are conceived solely in terms of how cool they’ll look as action figures. Whatever characterisation they once had, mostly in Predator 2 and AvP admittedly, is dropped: we still don’t know why a spacefaring civilisation is so obsessed with big game hunting -- much less why they believe that hairstyle and those vests look better when not invisible.
A solidly okay Saturday night effort, but unambitious considering the talent involved. Maybe Rodriguez should direct Predator Resurrection, but get a science fiction writer to script it.