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Monster Mishmash 

'Predators': too much talk, not enough action

Director Nimród Antal tried hard, but his effort to boost the Predator franchise with a much-needed shot of adrenaline failed.

While Predators is worlds better than Predator 2 and the excruciatingly bad Alien vs. Predator movies, the latest sequel features too much talk and not enough carnage.

Produced by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) and based in part on a script he wrote years ago, Predators features a scenario that harkens back to the 1987 Schwarzenegger original. A band of supreme badasses is dropped into a foreboding jungle (or, as I like to call it, "Da Meat Grinder!" in reference to one of my all-time-favorite Arnie lines from the original), and something is watching them.

This time out, the band of baddies is landing in an alien jungle (which, suspiciously, looks like Hawaii) one at a time via parachute—and none of them can remember how they wound up falling through the sky. The group includes a sampling of ethnicities and a formidable representation of Earth's human killing machines. The group also includes a doctor (Topher Grace), presumably to patch up any wounds that are soon to be incurred.

They are being hunted by the infamous crab-faced monsters—who don't make their first appearance until around 45 minutes into the movie. Yes, I realize this is a tribute to the original, where the monster didn't make a definitive appearance until the audience was deep into the film, but, come on: We know the monsters by now, so bring them on. We want to see the damn things skinning hides and ripping out spinal chords. Why hide them?

Probably because this is not a big-budget film (it cost $40 million according to boxofficemojo.com—chump change by Hollywood standards), so the expensive-to-produce monsters are used sparingly. However, the design team has made some good-looking beasties that do the original proud, and include a few cool new variations.

But the film consists mainly of people talking about their predicament rather than man-on-monster action—and while the traditional makeup effects look good, the CGI is piss-poor. The alien sky, full of planets and moons, looks like it was painted with Crayolas, and I've never seen a computer-generated blood spurt that I liked.

Adrien Brody, who plays Royce, the default leader of the humans, grinds out his dialogue in standard-issue action-man mode. He delivers every line with a whispery, nasally growl that drags on your eardrums. I commend the shape he got into for the part, but little else.

Laurence Fishburne shows up late in the game as another soldier who survived a previous hunt. Fishburne's character is crazy; we know this, because he's invented an imaginary friend. Really? They used the "imaginary friend" card to show a character is nutty? Why didn't the film's producers make him wear his underwear on his head, too?

The film offers up a big twist that makes no sense after the dust settles. The screenplay's parallels to James Cameron's Aliens (including the actual name of the movie) are a few too numerous, including the surprise villain in the pack. Little feels original.

By the time the credits hit—after a final shot promising a sequel—we've basically witnessed a big tease. Predators lacks the high-octane, fantastic gore and makeup effects one should expect. Parts of Predators are so bad that it looks like it should've gone direct to video—while other parts are quite good. It's a very schizophrenic movie.

Perhaps it will do well (it has already made back its budget in international grosses), and somebody will throw a few extra bucks at the sequel. Here's to more Predator mayhem in the next installment, and less footage of Brody standing around philosophizing.

Predators
Rated R · 107 minutes · 2010
Official Site: www.predators-movie.com
Director: Nimród Antal
Producer: Robert Rodriguez, John Davis, Elizabeth Avellan and Alex Young
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Changchien and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali

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