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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Naked prey

Adrien Brody turns a spindly blow-away into an ass-kicking grunter

Posted By on Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Adrien Brody, action star? I know what you're thinking. My brow furrowed too when I first heard that the one-time Oscar winner and perpetually quirky thespian was getting' all butch, following in the Governator's combat-boot steps as an alien-busting badass. But Brody has the dead-eyed stare and throaty growl down cold, and he certainly looks the part, packing a couple dozen pounds of rippled muscle onto his typically endomorphic frame. His pumped-up physique perfectly reflects the gonzo nature of this overcranked exercise in franchise extension. This is the Texas of sci-fi sequels: Everything is bigger — the guns, the monsters, the effects budget, the plot holes ... you name it. 

The movie literally jumps into action:  Brody's mercenary awakening sees him parachuting against his will into a strange jungle. On the ground he quickly makes an uneasy alliance with a motley crew of earth's roughest murderers, a killer elite culled from a variety of lethal backgrounds, including Russian Special Forces, drug cartel enforcers, psycho convicts, Rwandan death squads, etc. They are joined by Topher Grace's hipster doctor, whose special weapon is wisecracks. These aren't exactly the funniest suits at cocktail hour, but they're handy in a fight, and armed to the teeth. And they need all the firepower they can get, as it's soon clear that they've all been shanghaied to a lush planet that serves as an alien game preserve. And they are the prey of the day. 

What follows is a predictable but enjoyable game of live action Duck Hunt, as captives get picked off one by one, occasionally in clever ways. 

There may be stereotypes, but for once the human victims are more interesting than the cosmic perpetrators, and most of their deaths have an impact beyond cheap thrills. Some, such as Alice Braga's morally conflicted Israeli sniper, are worth rooting for. Unfortunately, the efficient script sorely lacks the memorable comedic punch that made the first Predator a blast. Brody can grunt convincingly, but he sure can't deliver a catch phrase like Jessie Ventura. As in the semi-classic 1987 original, the creatures remain mostly unseen for the first half, which was a good call because when we do see them they look like barbarian lizard folk with Rastafarian coifs. Things get sillier when said goons start engaging in predator-on-predator violence, leading to wrestling matches that end in green, antifreeze-looking bloodbaths. Yes, it's rather goofy when the dapper Yakuza guy has a samurai sword showdown with a predator, but it's also undeniably cool, a fact director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) keeps firmly in mind. With producer Robert Rodriguez peeping over his shoulder, Antal delivers the high-energy goods, a taut, handsome actioner that serves the fans while never breaking faith with the casual ticket buyers who paid for a wild ride.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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