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“Predators,” an Enigma Wrapped in a Cloaking Device

“Predators,” an Enigma Wrapped in a Cloaking Device (photo)

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An American mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody) awakens, as if from a dream, into a nightmare. After a brief and painful journey via parachute, he arrives in an endless jungle, where he soon meets seven other individuals, all but one are deadly killers like himself. Where they are and who put them there are big questions for these characters, but they’re not really big questions for the audience, because this movie is called “Predators.”

They’re probably well aware it’s a sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 shoot ’em up that featured a deadly dreadlocked alien who liked to hunt humans for sport, so it’s a pretty safe bet that this one does too. Therefore, the big question for viewers — at least for viewers who know the first movie — will be why producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal waste so much time on a mystery that they’ve already figured out.

Once the film finally starts moving, it delivers all the requisite gory action, hyperbolic gun violence and creepy-cool alien weaponry you could ever want. But “Predators” takes an awfully long time to get there, and while it does, its cast talks to each other as if they (and us) are all total morons. The characters will stumble upon a clue, one of them will analyze it aloud, and then another will spell out exactly what they’ve gleaned, down to the last detail.

07092010_predators3.jpgAfter fending off an alien assault that ends after a loud whistle is sounded, one character goes, “So, what? They just left?” Another replies, “No, the whistle. They were called off.” Like the bloodiest episode of “Blue’s Clues” in history, the first 40 minutes of “Predators” repeats this process over and over. This movie doesn’t have a subtitle, but if it did, the only logical choice would have been “Predators: Yes, Obviously.”

At long last, the humans uncover the truth: they are not on Earth, but another planet entirely. “A game preserve,” says Royce, “and we’re the game.” With that information finally out of the way, the band of vigilantes’ tactics change and so do the movie’s.

Antal, a talented young action director, is finally free to get back to doing what he did so well in his two previous films, “Vacancy” and “Armored” — conveying the cold, terrifying reality of what it might feel like to be caught in a death trap. Earlier, I mentioned the one human character who isn’t some sort of soldier or serial killer. That’s Edwin (Topher Grace), an American doctor. He’s also a bit of a cliché and something of a MacGuffin, but his presence gives Antal that scared-out-of-his-gourd victim that all of his films require.

Much is made of the fact that Royce and the rest of the humans, including Alice Braga as an Israeli sniper, Oleg Taktarov as a Russian commando, and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as a Sierra Leone death squad officer, are just as bad as the aliens trying to kill them.

07092010_predators2.jpg“We’re the predators of our own world,” Braga’s Isabelle tells Royce, alluding to the title’s double meaning. But Antal and Rodriguez didn’t have the conviction to fill their movie with the truly despicable butchers that sort of set-up demands. Instead, the targets the Predators selected for their hunt are all extremely ethical killers who, for the most part, are fairly likable and sympathetic. Other than Walton Goggins’ repulsive and ruthless death row inmate Stains, these men and women are just run-of-the-mill movie badasses, with nothing especially vicious or extreme about them. At that point, any intended subtext becomes purely theoretical.

Antal doesn’t have a particularly demonstrative visual style, but his action sequences always have a good sense of pacing and geography. When he plunges us into the frenzy of the Predators’ hunt, the movie works. When he attempts anything beyond simple genre thrills, it doesn’t.

I’m still mystified why Antal and Rodriguez treated the details of their story so delicately, especially because after all those pointless investigation scenes, it just so happens that one of the characters magically knows all about the Predators, and can share their history on Earth and weaknesses in battle. How could they possibly know this information? Maybe they’d seen “Predator” too, and were just as tired of the forced air of mystery.

“Predators” is now open in wide release.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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