Who's In It: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Carey Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears
The Basics: Eight mercenary killers of various stripes and nationalities awake mid-freefall, landing on a strange jungle planet with no immediate recollection of how they got there. Adrien Brody's wiry American loner, Royce, takes the lead -- he is the one with an Oscar at home, after all -- as the ragtag band of human predators form a tenuous alliance and figure out where they are. Like, what are those spiky killer dogs that are trying to eat them? Why is there more than one moon in the sky? And who the heck are those super-sized invisible dreadlocked alien hunters with laser guns and heat vision technology who appear to be hunting them down, one by one, for sport?
What's The Deal: I'll assume you're going into a movie called Predators with prior knowledge of the 1987 jungle action movie Predator, in which the Governor of California goes mano a mano with one of the most bad-ass movie monsters in history, and its 1990 sequel Predator 2, in which Danny Glover does the same beneath the streets of Los Angeles. Director Nimród Antal (Vacancy) and producer Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Sin City) have obvious love for the original Predator films, and here seek to correct the franchise years after it jumped the shark with those Alien vs. Predator creature feature sequels. With a nostalgic sensibility for cheeky, bloody fun, they serve up a spine-ripping good time that evokes the spirit of the original films and brings the Predator universe into the 21st century. It's tense, it's gory, and it's maddeningly fun to watch, even if you can predict how things will turn out for most of the supporting cast (i.e., not good).
Another Way To Put It: Despite the fact that they're being chased around the jungle by actors in slimy sci-fi alien creature suits, the film's two Oscar-anointed actors, Adrien Brody and Laurence Fishburne, aren't slumming it. Brody counters the inherent silliness of it all by putting on his serious actor face, delivering lines with a knowing, self-aware expression. Fishburne channels his Apocalypse Now co-star Marlon Brando as a maybe-insane, Col. Kurtz-like survivor who's learned to hide out from the Predators for years. In the eternal battle between Fishburne and Sam Jackson for the title of slightly crazy, scene-stealing, bad-ass older black guy, score one for Fishburne.
Who Else You Care About Even Though You Know They're Going To Meet Some Horrible Fate: Brody's able co-stars, all of whom manage to bring their seemingly one-dimensional characters to life. There's the Mexican drug enforcer (Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo), the tough-but-sensitive lady sniper (Alice Braga), the silent Yakuza mobster (Louis Ozawa Changchien), the Chechan soldier with a family (Oleg Taktarov, AKA the best UFC fighter-turned-actor in movie history), the African rebel officer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and the innocent looking young doctor (Topher Grace). All shine in their limited screen time, but special notice goes to Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified), whose virtuoso turn as a loose-cannon white trash death row inmate should put him in high demand.
The Most Gleefully Insane (And Therefore Lovable) Things About Predators: The opening scene, in which Adrien Brody wakes up and races to deploy his parachute before becoming an Adrien Brody pancake. The way Antal makes his intentions crystal clear with a single song in his end credits. Exploding bodies, jungle booby traps, Predator dogs, the Predator vs. samurai showdown, and Predator-on-Predator violence. The strangely coincidental comparisons to Lost that pop up (characters wake up in the jungle, wonder if they're in Purgatory, and band together against an unknown enemy that seems to disappear into thin air). The fact that Hemingway quotes and rape jokes exist in the same movie to provide insights on human nature, the sheer audaciousness of which makes me love this gleefully macabre throwback action pic even harder. What are you waiting for, guys? Bring on Predators 2: Prey Harder!