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Ten Word or Less Review:  Not great, but miles better than expected.

As slightly above average as it may be, we should probably stop and give thanks to “Predators.”  The spine snatching beastie has had a rough go of it lately.  Its own franchise abandoned two decades ago, our favorite mandibled, alien badass was shuffled off into a misguided grudge match with the Alien franchise and the results were something only dips could love.  No offense to any dips in the room.  Stuck in a rut with nowhere to go, hack director Robert Rodriguez grabbed the attention of Fox and has now done his low budget best to breathe life into this misused franchise.  Handing directorial duties off to not-so-notable director Antol Nimrod (Armored), the two have managed to slap together a decent, functioning monster movie that doesn’t rankle or annoy.  It may not be the blistering work of action mayhem many had foolishly hoped for, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“Predators” is a collection of rights and wrongs.  For everything it gets right it missteps somewhere else.  But the things it gets right are solid advantages while its mistakes are mostly nick picky in nature.  The best thing “Predators” does is to cast real actors in its leads.  It would’ve been simple to take the “AVP’ route and cast a bunch of borderline and unknown faces at bargain basement prices.  Instead Oscar winner Adrian Brody steps into the genre field to play an unnamed mercenary dropped onto the alien planet to be hunted.  His character rises above routine movie badass by being a smartly written, unapologetic realist.  The most common problem with movies such as these is that the audience is already privy to what’s happening; all the while our primary characters spend half the movie learning what we already know.  Brody’s character is written with an intuitive nature and he figures out the crux of what’s up quickly, sparing the audience patience in the process.  Laurence Fishburne drops in for a wacked out, scene stealing cameo clearly meant for Schwarzenegger.  The rest of the cast, including Topher Grace and Alice Braga, is rounded out with mostly unknowns, but no one feels out of place or poorly served by the material.  This very decent and game cast takes up most of the screen time, leaving the Predators of the title in a surprisingly background role.  Those still hoping for a movie strictly about our skull hunting aliens will have to wait for one more round.

The worst thing “Predators” does is lack a truly original element to call its own. Rodriguez and Nimrod have shoehorned in too many nods to the original “Predator” film without establishing enough of an identity of its own.  It doesn’t even have the excessive, hair brained, sleaziness of “Predator 2.”  “Predators” is just another retread of the same scenario, albeit a decent retread.  There should’ve been a point where this feature distinguished itself from its precursors and gone its own way, but it never quite happens.  It’s also undermined from time to time by some questionable screenplay decisions.  Without spoiling anything, one character is privy to information which they should in no way know, another involves a wildly mistimed character reveal.  None of these problems are deal breakers, but they nag.

The best way to enjoy “Predators” is to think about it lightly and appreciate that it isn’t an unmitigated screwing of the pooch.  Pull the threads at it if you must but you’ll eventually have taken apart the whole thing, leaving yourself a little pile of spines and skulls.  Let the nagging, unanswered questions slide, of which there are tons, and enjoy it for what it is, a movie about a bunch of psycho killers dropped on an alien world to be hunted and killed by bigger, uglier psycho killers.  Epic drama this will never be and that’s okay.  Though the ending does promise a sequel, I’m not so sure we should press our luck.  We got one watchable movie out of the deal, something tells me a second go around is unwise.

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