Even on the fifth try, Predators can't scare up any thrills from its onslaught of alien Elmer Fudds 

Good genre movies get kicked in the teeth by reviewers even when they deliver exactly what they promise — swift diversion, deftly staged thrills, the pleasure of an offbeat or unfamiliar variation on an appealing convention. So let's make this clear: Predators isn't a bad movie because it lacks any animating subtext, because it has one-dimensional characters or because its dialogue consists of nuggets along the lines of, "Now let's find a way off this fucking planet," although all of those things are true. It's not a bad movie because it fails to pay homage to the master-shot school of Taiwanese cinema. It's a bad movie because it fails to satisfy the lizard-brain part of you that just wants to see dudes whup ass on 7-foot monsters.

The same was true of the original Predator, a lumbering, muscle-headed take on a nifty black-comic premise about an alien hunter stalking gung-ho mercenaries for sport. Not even a couple of subsequent dimly lit grudge matches against the acid-blooded Aliens could stir up much excitement, in what amounted to the dramatization of an Ain't It Cool News flame war. This Robert Rodriguez-produced remake/reboot/rehash paratroops Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga and others into a jungle that they quickly deduce is actually a booby-trapped extra-terrestrial game preserve with humans as the wall-mounted heads of choice. What follows will delight fans of movies where people take endless forest hikes and flinch at every broken twig, periodically broken up by folks getting their spinal columns detached from their bodies. (Walton Goggins, we hardly knew ye.)

The director, Nimrod Antal, made a trim, nastily effective B movie called Vacancy a few years ago that worked nimbly within a confined setting (a remote motel), and he'd seem a natural to give an unpretentious man-vs.-mandibles shocker some wit and verve. But after four lousy prior runs at this franchise, it's remarkable that no one involved has noticed how boring the alien-hunters premise is when there's not a single character who sparks rooting interest. Here, alas, that includes the ripped Brody, hoarsely delivering his lines in guttural Stallone-speak while managing the most precipitous post-Oscar decline since Louise Fletcher went from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to Mama Dracula.

It's not worth cataloguing the plot holes and improbabilities: A viewer would probably forgive those if the movie offered humor, style or genre vitality in the bargain. But the stalk-and-slash confrontations, the ostensible attraction, are nothing you haven't seen 100 times on Syfy. Twelve Friday the 13th movies to the contrary, there's not really any such thing as the interesting killing of an uninteresting character — although Antal manages a handsome overhead shot of a Predator and his mutually vanquished human foe in a field of rippling grass. How to make this concept finally live up (or down) to its potential for gory cheap thrills? I'm not sure, but let's just say I have an intriguing idea for Sex and the City 3.

• So you missed the appearance by "Dancing Outlaw" Jesco White at the Mercy Lounge a few weeks back, and you've kicked yourself ever since (especially after reading the Hunter S. Thompson-esque account in the Scene's "Spin" column)? Julian Nitzberg's documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (wth music by Hank Williams III) screens for one more night this Thursday, July 15 at The Belcourt.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.


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