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Predators (20th Century Fox, R)

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The situation is not as bad as it could be: they all speak English, have an ample supply of high-powered weapons and ammunition, and the jungle is located on a planet apparently devoid of biting insects.

Back in 2005, A.O. Scott, reviewing Nimrod Antal’s Kontroll for the New York Times, said that the director’s first feature showed that his future might lie in making action movies. With Predators that future has arrived: it has everything you could want in a summer action movie including, of course, lots of action.

The premise is that a cast of commandos, cons and crazies are dropped by parachute into a jungle. They don’t know where they are or why they are there and they start by fighting each other but quickly realize their chances of survival are better if they work together. The situation is not as bad as it could be: they all speak English, have an ample supply of high-powered weapons and ammunition, and the jungle is located on a planet apparently devoid of biting insects. A bit of scouting turns up some of grisly specimens and before long they figure out that they’re there to be hunted for sport by the Predators (yes, their number has increased since 1987). Or as Royce (a very buff Adrien Brody) puts it “This is a game preserve and we’re the game.”

In this type of movie you expect every character to be a type and the screenplay by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch does not disappoint. Royce is a mercenary who quotes Hemingway (“There is no hunting like the hunting of a man”) and becomes the de facto leader of the multi-culti crew. Isabella (Alice Braga) is an Israeli sniper haunted by guilt over the death of her spotter and in the interests of fan service wears a uniform designed to reveal an improbable amount of cleavage. Edwin (Topher Grace) is a nerdy physician who serves as the audience representative among all the bad-ass guys and gals.

Rounding out the crew are Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), formerly an enforcer for a Mexican drug cartel; Stans (a perversely hilarious Walton Goggins), a mass murderer three days from his execution date; Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) an RUF death squad member; Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov) from the Russian Special Forces (his last memory is of Chechnya) and Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) of the Yakuza—with the tattoos to prove it.

Antal is better with surprise than with suspense and as long as there’s lots of action going on the film is good, old-fashioned Saturday afternoon fun with lots of visual inventiveness regularly punctuated with good scares. Cinematography by Gyula Pados and special effects are first-rate, and the music by John Debney enhances the atmosphere and action sequences.

 Predators sags about an hour in when the crew happens upon Noland (Laurence Fishburne) who supplies a lot of backstory while seeming to be channeling Marlon Brando’s Kurtz (not entirely inappropriate in the context and also something of an inside joke, as one of Fishburne’s early movie roles was as Tyrone ‘Clean’ Miller in Apocalypse Now). But not to worry, things pick up again quickly and this film keeps surprising you on the way to a satisfying conclusion which also leaves the way open for Predator 3. | Sarah Boslaugh

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