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‘Predators’ gets lost in chaos

Fri., July 9, 2010

They are dropped from the sky, with only a parachute to save them. They land in a lush green jungle whose topography seems to resemble no known place on Earth.

All they can remember, from the moments prior to their arrival, is a flash of bright white light.

There are eight of them, each of whom seems to have some kind of background in violence: a black-ops mercenary (Adrien Brody), a CIA assassin (Alice Braga), a soldier for a Mexican drug cartel (Danny Trejo), a murderer on death row (Walton Goggins) and so forth.

Soon they realize that they have been sent here as prey, to be hunted and destroyed by an alien race seeking out new forms of diversion.

That’s the setup for “Predators,” which borrows heavily from “The Most Dangerous Game” and “Lost” to reinvigorate a franchise that, in its most recent incarnation – the two “Alien vs. Predator” films – devolved into comic book/sci-fi inanity, like Ed Wood movies with considerably more expensive special effects.

This new version tries to restore some of the straight-ahead intensity of the original 1987 “Predator,” while also pushing it deeper into the realm of old-fashioned horror.

Turns out our heroes are trapped on the home planet of the Predators, and they must face off these snarling, dreadlocked monsters – not to mention their feral, tusked pets – and find a way to escape.

What the film sorely lacks, though, is any real sense of fear.

“Predators” was directed by Nimrod Antal (“Vacancy”), but it was produced by Robert Rodriguez, whose fingerprints are all over it. Like most of Rodriguez’s work, this movie only seems to come alive when it’s at its most gleefully juvenile, as limbs get sliced and body cavities are torn open and the Predators spew neon green blood.

Rodriguez loves his creatures, and he and Antal take evident delight in populating this planet with as many different monsters as possible – to the exclusion of any real character or plot development. Nothing seems to matter here other than the goo and the gore.

As the self-appointed leader of the humans, Brody lacks the brawn of a proper action hero, not to mention the charm; the few attempts to generate a romance between Brody and Braga go nowhere.

Both Topher Grace, as a doctor who doesn’t seem to fit in with this group of professional killers, and Laurence Fishburne, a mysterious man they encounter on the island, are wasted.

The final sections of “Predators” features a massive grenade explosion, a spaceship getting blown to bits, and a venom that, once injected, renders a person paralyzed – in other words, as with most of this summer’s action movies, it’s barely comprehensible chaos.

“Predators” mostly just suggests a bunch of grown men playing with toys and not bothering to invite the rest of us into their circle.

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