'This planet is a game preserve. And we're the game."
Da-da-dadam!!! . . .
So announces Adrien Brody in Predators, helmer Nimród Antal's resurrection of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Jesse Ventura-starring minor B-classic, Predator.
And yes, the score actually swells up and crashes into an emphatic da-da-dadam!!!, that ol' standby only soap operas still use.
A preposterous, if admittedly fun, exercise in sci-fi/horror mayhem, Predators is about eight tough hombres from around the world who are suddenly dropped (literally) on a planet far, far away.
They've been especially selected as top-grade prey for a hunt organized by those nasty, fluorescent-lime-green-blooded Predator aliens who look like a cross of a miniature Godzilla, a catfish, and a dreadlocked, ganja-smoking reggae singer.
The evildoers easily slice and dice their way through our gang, which includes a Russian Spetsnaz soldier (Oleg Taktarov); a Mexican drug cartel enforcer (Danny Trejo); a Yakuza killer (Louis Ozawa Changchien); and a racist rapist-murderer on death row (Walton Goggins in a reprise of his redneck role in Justified).
Alice Braga, who survived the first Predator, rounds out the baaad-boy picnic as Isabelle, a beautiful sniper from the Israel Defense Forces.
You'd expect such a sweet mix of actors to generate some chemistry - perhaps engage in some Tarantino-esque banter. Sadly, there's very little. Mostly, we get stupid one-liners about survival and the hunter-hunted dialectic.
Brody isn't bad as a tough guy. But he looks out of place: It seems as if he Methoded his way into his role as a Hemingway-quoting (I kid you not) mercenary named Royce by watching 1940s film noirs, spaghetti westerns, and Dirty Harry. You keep expecting him to walk into a dimly lit bar, light a cigarette, and chat up a fatal, sexy redhead.
Laurence Fishburne makes a brief cameo as Noland, a spaced-out soldier with an imaginary friend. The Apocalypse Now star tells our motley band he's from the Air Cavalry, then bellows out a few notes of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." (Guess he was beamed down from one of Robert Duvall's helicopters.)
The first third of the film is a real drag. But it picks up - and how! - once the clutter (read: supporting cast) is thinned out. The action is fierce, well-choreographed, and bloody.
Predator purists (is that an oxymoron?) have nothing to fear: This is a worthy follow-up. And, if the fate of the original stars is any indication, Brody and Fishburne have a gubernatorial future.