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Predators

Rodriguez-produced pic puts a bulked-up Adrien Brody in Arnold Schwarzenegger's erstwhile shoes.

With:
Royce - Adrien Brody Edwin - Topher Grace Isabelle - Alice Braga Stans - Walton Goggins Nikolai - Oleg Taktarov Noland - Laurence Fishburne

Last seen battling a rival franchise’s beasties in the energetically silly “Alien vs. Predator” and its sequel (in which they were the good guys, sorta), those Rastafarian-coiffed killer space aliens are back in “Predators.” Robert Rodriguez-produced pic puts a bulked-up Adrien Brody in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s erstwhile shoes, to clamorous if uninvolving results. Nonetheless, dudes looking for some basic splattery action while their girlfriends are off seeing “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (again) should give this a muscular B.O. sendoff, even if legs may be longer in ancillary.

Script by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch bears more resemblance to the superior 1987 original, “Predator,” than to its intervening sequels, at least in the early going. Replacing that film’s commando unit is a motley crew of militaristic or just plain violent types plucked from around the globe. Each one experiences a flash of light, then awakens mid-freefall from an airplane, plummeting into an unknown jungle with whatever weapons he or she was already carrying.

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The eight whose chutes open in time (others aren’t so lucky) are gruff mercenary Royce (Brody), Israeli Defense Forces sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga), Russian soldier Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Colombian drug cartel enforcer Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Sierra Leone death squad member Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), Yakuza hitman Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and convicted mass murderer Stans (Walton Goggins). Odd man out is mild-mannered doctor Edwin (Topher Grace), whose reason for being here (beyond providing some comic relief) remains unclear until a late speech rendered near-incomprehensible by audio distortion.

These testy strangers (fortunately all English speakers) uneasily band together for survival against various perils, the initial ones being booby traps and an attack by spike-covered boar-like creatures. Once they arrive at a clearing and can see the sky, there’s another unpleasant surprise: They’re not on Earth. It’s at this point Royce deduces, “This planet is a game preserve and we are the game.”

Indeed, they are being hunted by the “predators” of prior pics, with their invisibility shields and solarized point-of-view shots. The group’s ranks steadily thin as they attempt to escape, then hunt the hunters, eventually meeting up with a lone human survivor (Laurence Fishburne, laying it on thick) of several hunting seasons.

Directed by Nimrod Antal (of the impressive Hungarian “Kontroll” as well as Hollywood suspensers “Vacancy” and “Armored”), “Predators” serves up its parade of frantic chases, explosions and slugfests with brute-force competence. But it’s also somewhat monotonous, with action pausing only for clunky dialogue, some icky moments but no memorable thrills, and a fadeout that provides the characters (and viewers) little reward for their toil.

There’s also the problem of the predators themselves. Original pic smartly kept them a mostly unseen menace; once they make themselves known here, there’s far too much time (especially during a couple of mano-a-mano fight scenes) in which to ponder how they resemble tricked-up 1950s monsters such as the Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Gill-Man, et al.

Perfs are adequate in a movie lacking much use for better ones, though Brody disappoints by using the stock sotto voce rasp of the uber-macho action hero who really, really means business. Design elements are solid, Gyula Pados’s lensing making good use of locations in Hawaii, Texas and California. John Debney’s score offers standard bombast.

Predators

Production: A 20th Century Fox release of a Troublemaker Studios/Davis Entertainment Co. production in association with Dune Entertainment. Produced by Robert Rodriguez, John Davis, Elizabeth Avellan. Executive producer, Alex Young. Co-producer, Bill Scott. Directed by Nimrod Antal. Screenplay, Alex Litvak, Michael Finch, based on characters created by Jim Thomas, John Thomas.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Gyula Pados; editor, Dan Zimmerman; music, John Debney; production designers, Steve Joyner, Caylah Eddleblute; set decorator, David S. Hack; costume designer, Nina Proctor; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Ethan Andrus; supervising sound editor, Tim Rakoczy; re-recording mixers, Sergio Reyes, Brad Engleking, Robert Rodriguez; special makeup and creature effects, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger; visual effects supervisor, Rodriguez; visual effects, Troublemaker Digital, Hybride, Ubisoft Digital Arts; stunt coordinators, Jeff Dashnaw, Steve Davison; associate producer, Tom Proper; assistant director, Brian Bettwy; casting, Mary Vernieu, J.C. Cantu. Reviewed at AMC Metreon, San Francisco, July 7, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

Cast: Royce - Adrien Brody Edwin - Topher Grace Isabelle - Alice Braga Stans - Walton Goggins Nikolai - Oleg Taktarov Noland - Laurence FishburneWith: Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Carey L. Jondes, Brian Steele, Derek Mears.

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