Monster Hunter

Monster Hunter ★★

I’m no Paul W.S. Anderson hater. I don’t like him as well as Paul Thomas Anderson (Who does?), but he’s made some fun albeit dumb flicks. “Mortal Kombat” isn’t good, but it had a bumpin’ soundtrack and a coupla decent fights (most of which revolved around Scorpion and Sub-Zero). I initially thought his “Resident Evil” movies sucked, but they’ve grown into guilty pleasures over time … especially as he embraced 3D along the way. Anderson’s latest video game adaptation “Monster Hunter” is now playing in theaters.

The picture stars Anderson’s frequent collaborator, muse and wife Milla Jovovich as Lt. Artemis. She and her Army Ranger squadron (made up of rappers T.I. and MC Jin, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta and Josh Helman (Young Stryker from recent “X-Men” outings!)) are sucked through a portal to another world. Upon arrival they’re attacked by a series of different monsters. Luckily for them they encounter The Hunter (Tony Jaa), a sand pirate who’s been living and fighting in isolation.

A decent amount of “Monster Hunter” works; far more of it doesn’t. I actually preferred the militaristic fetishization sponsored by Oakley and calling to mind Michael Bay to the picture’s more fantastical elements, i.e. Ron Perlman in the world’s worst wig and an anthropomorphized pirate cat. I enjoyed the interplay between the soldiers and wish there were more of it. These actors would’ve benefitted from further character development as opposed to almost instantaneously being served up as a colossus’ snack. That said it ain’t really that sort of flick, the monsters are admittedly pretty cool (Toho did co-produce after all!) and one of the deaths is especially gnarly for a PG-13 joint.

Much of “Monster Hunter” is a two-hander between Jovovich and Jaa and it kinda feels akin to something like “Hell in the Pacific” or “Enemy Mine” in that there are language and cultural barriers between the two resulting in strife. This strife does lead to an admittedly entertaining hand-to-hand combat sequence. Jovovich and Jaa are fine, but they and the picture as a whole would’ve benefited from having other cast members around to help break the proceedings up. Don’t get me wrong, I dig training montages as much as the next person, but they grow stale after a bit. “Monster Hunter” is 99 minutes and feels more like 129. This ain’t a T.I. tune – I can’t have whatever I want.