Dinner & a Movie: Adrien Brody Vs. "Predators""/>
The Dinner: Sushi and beer at Sam's Sushi (521 Queen Anne Ave. N.).
Rico Torres/20th Century Fox Brody and Braga use guns, not chopsticks.
The Screenplate: Oh, Adrien Brody, this is where your The Pianist Oscar takes you? To a distant planet where the sun doesn't move in the sky, parachuting into an unfamiliar jungle, where you meet seven other bewildered strangers? And where a trio of unseen predators then begins to hunt you down, just like The Most Dangerous Game? There aren't many surprises to this update of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Predator; the new film is written and produced by Robert Rodriguez (the Spy Kids/El Mariachi guy), and he treats it with more pulp gravitas than it's due. (Hungarian Nimrod Antal, best known for Kontroll, directs.) Take away the digital effects, and you've basically got Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians: Which of eight prey will die first? And in what order? And how gory will those deaths be? And, finally, will Brody be able to save the only woman in their group (Alice Braga)? Oh, and one more question: What does Predators have to do with sushi...?As it turns out, rather like a WWII bomber movie, or The Dirty Dozen, the eight humans in Predators are all distinct ethnic types. Fifty years ago, in the kind of movies Rodriguez undoubtedly loves, that would've meant WASP, Jew, Irish guy, maybe a Slav, and probably a token black. But certainly no women. They would bicker and trade ethnic jokes that today make us wince. In Predators, there's no race baiting--not because these eight are so enlightened (anything but), but more out of the camaraderie that comes of being the only humans--or so they think--on a distant planet.
Thus our types are: foxy Israeli sniper (Braga, a Brazilian, but never mind that), Mexican mobster (Danny Trejo, soon to star in Rodriguez's Machete), Russian soldier (Oleg Taktarov), Hemingway-quoting mercenary (Brody), Rwandan guerilla (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), white-trash sociopath (Walton Goggins), and meek physician (Topher Grace--what's he doing here?). And prey number eight: A Japanese yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien) who eventually takes up a samurai sword to fight a predator duel in a field of windblown Kurosawa grass. Hence our hunger for sushi after the movie.
Now, like Predators, Sam's Sushi in Lower Queen Anne doesn't seek to raise your expectations. You know what you're getting into. No fancy sign, no Web site, not a lot of foot traffic, TV playing quietly over the bar, families huddling at the restaurant's other end, medium busy for lunch and dinner. It's not fancy; but, in general, neither are the movies that Rodriguez makes. He's a pastiche artist in his best movies (Sin City) and genre outings (Grindhouse). As a culinary analogue, I like the Queen Anne Platter at Sam's, which gives you a decent selection of everything--fish, crab, rice, sashimi, etc. You're not going to be able to remember or name every individual item, washed down with a nice Sapporo, but the platter is soon empty, and you don't regret the experience. (Price check for two patrons: about $40.)
Likewise, you don't walk into Predators expecting great cinema. What Rodriguez gives you instead is a little bit of the original movie (lasers, heat-vision POV, the shirtless hero daubing himself with mud), a little bit of James Cameron's Aliens (military tough talk followed by frantic retreat), a little bit of The Dirty Dozen ("We're the monsters of our own world"), a little bit of Lost (how can they understand the rules on this crazy planet?!?), and a little bit of The Matrix (hello, Laurence Fishburne cameo). Rodriguez apparently wrote the script back in the '90s, trying to lure Schwarzenegger into a sequel. (Today, who remembers the interim 1990 Predator 2 with Gary Busey and Danny Glover?) And Predators certainly feels a bit dated in its typical characters and themes. (Will Brody go it alone, or will he help Braga and the others?) The movie isn't exactly stale, but it's a very traditional action flick, a throwback to the Schwarzenegger era. (Sorry, no gubernatorial cameo.)
In the same way, the sushi at Sam's is fresh and tasty, even if the presentation and restaurant decor are a bit dated. The restaurant will survive, even if the Predator franchise does not.