Arnold Schwarzenegger faced off against these skilled hunters in the original film and now Oscar-winner Adrien Brody picks up the big gun. Too bad Brody didn't get the better role. This sequel goes back to the essence of the original, but loses all the suspense.
Brody plays Royce, a special ops soldier who is dropped from the sky into a jungle. He doesn't know why he is there. All he remembers is a flash of light. Others start joining him. They're all killers from various locations on Earth and it becomes clear quickly that they are not the hunters in this scenario.
Director Nimrod Antal's film is populated with stereotypes from central casting. Isabelle (Alice Braga, I AM LEGEND) is the woman… and also the most kind of the group. Noland (Lawrence Fishburne, APOCALYPSE NOW) is the kooky survivor who has lasted against the aliens the longest. Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien, FAIR GAME) is a laconic yakuza. How much you want to beat he finds a samurai sword? Stans (Walton Goggins, TV's THE SHIELD) is a cruel Southern serial killer. Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov, NATIONAL TREASURE) is a Chechen rebel whose massive gun is disproportionate to the size of his brain. Cuchillo (Danny Trejo, MACHETE) is a Mexican drug cartel. Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, TV's THE 4400) is an African warlord. Edwin (Topher Grace, TV's THAT '70S SHOW) is a surgeon who seems misplaced with these savages. Seems.
These characters exist to get killed off one by one. Who will last to the very end is obvious from the start. Disoriented by their location and disadvantaged by their weapon supply, the group is hunted by various ugly predators and their toothy attack hounds. They are being toyed with and that's how the audience feels as well. The story starts with some suspense, but by the time the big reveal comes, the story just plods forward with nothing else to surprise us with.
The big reveal I will not reveal, because I didn't know it going in, so I will keep the surprise. It's not a great surprise, but it does increase the hopelessness of the humans' cause. But it also puts into question the motivations and bank accounts of the predators. They go to a lot of effort to basically play with mice.
Once the end comes, Antal, producer Robert Rodriguez or one of the four credited screenwriters couldn't help referencing some of the classic lines from the original. That's where the film completely lost me. It just highlights the problem with this sequel. It doesn't build on the first film; it's just tries to copy it. Because the outcome is so clear, this actioner is as thrilling as shooting fish in a barrel. And as original as that metaphor.
Blu-ray: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011)Previous Post
THE TRIP (2011) (***)