Jul

9

 PREDATORS

Directed by Nimrod Antal

Having seen four B to A-plus summer coolers yesterday, we had hoped for more than just dependable A/C at the screening of PREDATORS, the latest in the Predator franchise universe.

Uh, no.

PREDATORS is fairly jejune, with a barely distinct script, illogical actions, lots of less attractive side characters falling prey to sudden, gruesome and stupid deaths, inexplicable plot twists that make no sense if you know squat about tracking and hunting, and of course the predictable protagonist sexual-tension meet-uncute killer duo survive all the no-biggie sturm und drang.

Laurence Fishburne (THE MATRIX triptych) appears dourly and misanthropically for a few minutes, only to be gone forever in a trice. But all the characters save Braga seem to hate the world and pretty much each other, though they are bound together in the strange landscape they now find themselves trying to conquer. Adrian Brody—(THE PIANIST) who has clearly been to the gym for intensive sessions over the past couple months—is the loner, Royce, who unwillingly leads a ragtag crew of hunted criminals and mercenaries (including the beauteous Alice Braga, who appeared in the Will Smith dystopia vehicle, I AM LEGEND, 2007). Topher Grace (SPIDER-MAN 2) appears to be a mistake in the bloodthirsty thick-necked crew of convicts (a scorpion-tattoo'ed Walter Goggins) and being stalked by monster rejects from you-name-it monster flicks (AVATAR comes to mind—both the looming trackless jungle and the multiple moons in the alien sky, as well as the weird horny rhino-hoppers snorting prickly death, and the "beloved" cloaked characters who appear to be now electronically gifted beyond their mere physical hideousness. They have new tactics, new weapons, new senses with which to stalk their prey. Weapons large and in charge, of every variety including an old and lethal samurai sword, play key roles in every frame.

The first PREDATORs (1987; 1994) offered up the thrill of an apparently enduring sci-fi invisibility-cloaked extra-terrestrial mandibled warrior wreaking havoc and mayhem in the treetops. Actual location where the proceedings were shot: Austin , Texas . And Hawaii . There’s the improbably urchin-faced beauty, the IDF sniper Isabelle, toting his machine gun (with a Brazilian accent despite her supposed MidEast provenance), the renegade who had been about to be electrocuted; the pock-faced black fighter from some ongoing drug gang enforcer, Cuchillo, Danny Trejo); a misplaced Yakuza in a silvery suit (Louis Ozawa Changchien); a Russian from Chechnya (Oleg Taktarov); a mostly quiet killer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) and the aforementioned spectacle-toting Edwin, the disgraced doctor, who alone among the dirty seven has no overt weapon or major firearm.

This is a frequent mash-up of late: A commando film that spins into sci-fi.They are in an alien planet somewhere, dropped without memory of their kidnapping from some space vehicle, parachuting into the creepy crawly alien Amazonian jungle. All the forests, greens and foliage were created, stapled, nailed and husbanded through the shoot using thousands of plants and logs, burnt cedars and tendrils.

Even I was distracted, a woman who is never bored. Too many aspects of the story might pass a 14-year-old’s muster–for whom, of course, the franchise has been created–but kept my head turning from side to side in disbelief. The Yakuza dude, very intense-looking, removes his shoes as soon as he finds himself in the foliage. Why would any sane bandit do that, faced with myriad insects and creatures and slicing roots, megafauna and biomass? Not a single meal is consumed in whatever length of time the movie transpires on what’s-it planet. Nor of course does anyone need to wash up or relieve himself. Fishburne’s cave is grungy, but offers strung-light electric illumination and something resembling a fridge.

The most exciting thing that happened was that when I stood up, during the credits, my new gauzy summer skirt floated serenely and without warning down atop my shoes. The lights were still down, so I swept it up and zipped the thing around my waist, with only one friend staring in astonishment at my unwonted display. Even my skirt tried to escape.


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