Friday, July 9, 2010

'Predators' just sharp enough


2 1/2 stars

By Joe Maniscalco

At almost 25, the Predator franchise is, indeed, getting a little long in the tusk. Thankfully, uber-action guru Robert Rodriguez is around to goose up the old boy and the rest of his gore-craving cronies just in time for some summertime popcorn-munching fare.

In “Predators,” producer Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal assemble a cast of eight confused, but murderously adept Earthlings, and drops them — quite literally — on a sub-tropical jungle world frequented by Predator hunting parties.

Kudos to Antal for keeping the Hollywood suits at bay long enough to create an engaging set-up evocative of the classic intro to “Planet of the Apes” — complete with ominous piano chords and a relentless march deeper into the unknown.

Sadly, the pay-off lacks a “POTA” punch — partly because the Predator creatures ultimately aren’t given that much screen time, and partly because we already know what they look like.

Not to worry, however; the dynamic between the hunters-turned-human prey is good enough to keep you going until the next Predator ambush.

Adrien Brody plays the archetypical — or is that hackneyed? — American loner dude who becomes leader of this motley pack of international gunmen — and one gun-woman.

Alice Braga plays the woman who, while lethal with a sniper rifle, clearly operates as the movie’s moral center. But who’s the real monster here? Is it the bloodthirsty alien headhunters or the creepy cast-off from “America’s Most Wanted?” Maybe it’s that Yakuza guy? Maybe not.

Antal has fun trying to keep the audience guessing while forcing his characters to dance on the point of a Predator spear.

It’s a good thing “Predators” is just sharp enough to keep things interesting.

“Predators.” Directed by Nimrod Antal. Starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Alice Braga. Runtime 1 hour and 47 minutes. Rated R. Playing in Brooklyn at UA Sheepshead Bay 14, UA Court Street Stadium 12 in Cobble Hill, Bay Ridge Alpine Cinemas, and Linden Boulevard Multiplex Cinemas in East New York.


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