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Thursday, July 15, 2010 06:22 am

Predators reboot a pleasant, gory surprise

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Adrien Brody and Alice Braga star in Predators.

Up is down and hot is cold during this summer movie season. Films that have looked like sure things have failed while those that shouldn’t work have come out of left field to deliver the goods. Case in point: Nimrod Antal’s Predators, a pseudo-sequel/reboot of the sci-fi action franchise that manages to pump new life into a series that many left for dead. Working from a story idea by producer Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror), the film takes the action back to a locale similar to the one in the Arnold Schwarzenegger cult classic as it amps up the action and gore. To be sure, these are cosmetic concerns but what really makes the film work is its veteran cast and a clever script that’s far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Exposition be damned, Antal drops us straight into the action with his opening shot of military mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) plunging towards the earth. Gathering himself, he opens his parachute, lands safely and discovers seven others who’ve had similar experiences. Lost in remote but seemingly familiar surroundings, what they don’t realize is that they are all dangerous killers in their chosen fields and they’ve been placed in a hunting preserve so that the title alien race can sharpen their skills by hunting them down.

Antal keeps things moving at a decent clip until the overlong third act, and the special effects are quite good. A herd of alien boars that come a huntin’ are frighteningly real while the Hawaiian locales make for a tropical yet alien environment. However, the cast is what saves the day. Brody is convincingly stern and surprisingly pulls off the tough stuff while Alice Braga as a military sharpshooter and Topher Grace as a misplaced surgeon effectively play it straight. But it’s Laurence Fishburne as a long-suffering survivor who steals the show. Unbalanced yet wily, he brings a gravity to the proceedings that goes far in convincing us that the threat they face is real. Sure, it’s a B-movie premise, but the A-list talent on board makes Predators the most pleasant surprise of the summer.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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