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Predators review

If it bleeds, we can kill it. But the Predator just won’t die. Even after a shonky cityscape sequel and a pair of incrementally execrable sci-fi franchise mash-ups, sci-fi cinema’s dreadlocked ET hunter is back.

We’re dropped – literally – into an alien jungle right from the opening seconds.

Plummeting out of the sky strapped with parachutes and really big guns come a cross-cut of Earth’s meanest killers: American mercenary (Adrien Brody), Israeli sniper (Alice Braga), Mexican thug (Danny Trejo), South Africa militia-man (M Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), Chechnyan special-ops soldier (Oleg Taktarov) death-row murderer (Walton Goggins), Yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchein) and doctor (Topher Grace).

Nasty surprises wait for them – but not for us. Showing a healthy respect for the mythology, producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal have fashioned a solid, unsurprising retread of the original that ticks boxes without ever tearing out of them.

There are plenty of affectionate echoes for fans to hold on to – from Jesse Ventura’s giant gatling gun to a blade-versus-blade showdown in a field of long, wind-swept grass that happened off-screen in 1987.

What’s missing on the killing fields is the dark humour and broad-but-memorable characters of John McTiernan’s film.

Largely a gang of amoral vagabonds, the cast aren’t much else than walking meat we can’t wait to see sliced-and-diced.

Admittedly, no actor in the original had ever won an Oscar for playing a Holocaust survivor, but with Adrien Brody pulling a gravel-gargling impression of Christian Bale’s flatline John Connor, only Alice Braga earns our sympathy.

Even when Brody buffs up for an Arnie-homaging shirtless scene, you still don’t see the star of The Darjeeling Limited taking down the galaxy’s most fearsome hunter hand-to-hand.

It’s when the Predators – subtly evolved in new-look armour and bringing some deadly new pets with them – finally de-cloak that the movie springs to life. With very few Predator POV shots, we’re left very much in the prey’s shoes and – like the AvP series – the creatures largely stick to shoulder cannons and wrist blades to administer some suitably gristly carnage.

No doubt Stan Winston would have approved that excellent physical effects trump CG magic here: there’s no shortage of eviscerations, dismemberments, decapitations and – oooh! – spine-ripping.

Gratifyingly, Antal directs with efficiency and assurance instead of hiding behind paper-shredder editing and giddy camerawork. But the movie just can’t find enough moments that stick in the mind.

The one that does is rightly saved for Goggins, reheating his unctuous character from TV cop saga The Shield en route to a Mortal Kombat-worthy checkout.

Worth noting, also, that the shot of multiple laser target-finders appearing on Brody in the trailer is scam. We counted four. Did we miss one?

Better than Predator 2, not a patch on the original. A throwback game-of-death, Rodriguez and Antal’s sequel hurls out plenty of gore but few surprises. Left wide open for unlimited sequels, could this be a vehicle for RR to blood new directors?

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