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'Predators' not a must see, but not a must avoid

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Directed by: Nimrod Antal

Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Danny Trejo

Rated: R

 In 1987, a year before director John McTiernan caught the world's attention with the first “Die Hard” film, he directed the action/thriller “Predator,” a classic B movie/drive-in theatre piece of work starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

20th Century Fox hoped for a franchise out of the title and released “Predator 2” in 1990, followed by two ridiculously bad cross-character films, “Alien vs. Predator” in 2004 and “Aliens vs. Predator” in 2007. Those films made “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” seem like Shakespeare.

And now we have “Predators,” an attempt to up the ante with an A-list cast that includes Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne. Despite the fun factor of the 1987 original, “Predators” is the best film of the lot.

It opens with an abrupt bang. We see Royce (Adrien Brody) tumbling freefall through the atmosphere. At the very last second, his parachute opens and he lands in a dense jungle. He has no recollection of why he was falling or where he is.

Once on the ground Royce meets seven other misplaced souls who have dropped in on the jungle. They all have one thing in common: They are all military personnel who have a bent for ruthlessness. The one odd man out is the rather timid doctor (Topher Grace) who doesn't quite seem to fit in. It's a nagging question that astute viewers realize will have a plausible (and in this case, creepy) resolution somewhere down the road.

No one in the octet seems to know where they are or why they are there. Foraging through the jungle they get the feeling something is not quite right. When they come to a clearing and can see the sky - filled with a sun that isn't moving and a number of planets that look like they are merely a short drive away - they realize they aren't in Kansas, or on Earth, anymore.

Around this time, Royce utters the most quoted line from the film. Every other review has used it so I have to follow suit. After a convoluted logic pattern that leads Royce to the understanding he and his fellow drop-ins are indeed on a game preserve, he (with a straight face) says, “Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.” He explains to his less scholarly prey mates that this is a quote from Ernest Hemingway.

And then the games begin. In the previous films there has always been but one “Predator,” but here there are three. They always come in threes, says the long time survivor - and certifiable loony - played by Laurence Fishburne. He, by his own reckoning, has survived a full ten “hunting seasons” since landing via parachute on the planet that seems to have been created after the toothy, mean spirited race of hunt crazy aliens read “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell.

At first Fishburne's character, Noland, seems to be a godsend. But it soon becomes evident that he has survived as long as he has by hook or crook. And he cares only about himself.

That's a fairly predictable twist. Not so evident - but in retrospect 20/20 hindsight will prevail - is the fact that the timid doctor was not put here by accident with the seven other cold blooded warriors/mercenaries/killers.

The most interesting - and visually appealing - of the lot is the Israeli sniper, Isabelle, played with sexy bravado by Alice Braga (niece of Brazilian actress Sonia Braga.)

There's no doubt from frame one that most of the characters in this story are going to meet gory, gruesome ends but Isabelle is destined to survive. And she does, with the other most obvious choice. They have not only an “Adam and Eve” moment at the end of the film, but a scene that leaves no doubt there will be a sequel. My bet is that it is already shot and ready for release.

And that's OK. “Predators” is a good, tense, entertaining movie. It's not going to win an Oscar, you probably won't want to see it more than once and there are plot points that will make you say, “Wait a minute...WHAT?”

But it's a good diversion and fairly tense considering how silly it really is.

Convincing actors as good as Brody and company to get involved with a franchise that has not met with much critical acclaim is a feat in and of itself. The toothy, dreadlocked title creatures are used sparingly so every time you actually get a good look at one, it's pretty spine tingling. The special effects aren't overdone, making them more effective and none of the actors seem embarrassed to be here. It's not a “must see” by any means but isn't a “must avoid” either.

“Predators” is good dumb fun, like so many movies that are released in the middle of summer.[[In-content Ad]]


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