There were a lot of great action films released during the 1980’s, from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future to Ghostbusters. There were also a number of iconic sci-fi films that starred the Austrian action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, including The Terminator, Commando and the sly The Running Man. “Ah-nold” became iconic with his enormous muscles and thick accent, and rarely did his star shine brighter than the immensely entertaining horror actioner Predator.
The premise of the 1987 hit was simple: A big, ugly alien creature lands in the jungle and hunts a US military commando team for fun. But the alien has a secret weapon that makes it even tougher; an invisibility cloak. Well, okay, it wasn’t actually cribbed from the not-yet-written Harry Potter books, but its ability to blend in with the terrain was a wicked cool effect. That plus the quasi-infrared “alien viewpoint” shots were good enough to get the film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year. It lost out to the dorky Innerspace, if you’re curious.
The surprise hit spawned a number of sequels and at one point the Predator even faced off mano-a-mano (claw-a-claw?) with the creature from the Alien movies in the entire forgettable 2004 AVP: Alien vs. Predator. Don’t go watch it because I mentioned it, though. You’re welcome.
While the original alien hunting tough guys for sport concept is still fresh, this time around writers Fred Dekker and Shane Black decided it’d be more fun to make a horror / action / comedy. Yes, a comedy with a 7-foot alien that rips humans apart for entertainment value. Trophy kill achievement unlocked, in a gory way.
Here’s what’s surprising: It mostly works. Sure there are moments where it’s clear that director Shane Black was ripping off other films as the story unfolds, but while it’s a bit confusing, the overall movie is actually pretty darn entertaining. It also seems like there were two different writing teams involved with the script, though, because the first 30 minutes or so feel very much like a Wayans Brothers movie with scenes from Buckaroo Banzai, Con Air, Scary Movie, Independence Day and various others, but once the second predator shows up, it settles into a fun, albeit somewhat gory action, horror, comedy film.
Yes, you read that correctly, there’s more than one predator. The story starts out with military sniper Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) in the middle of a mission in hostile territory when something big and fast crashes into the jungle. Investigating, he finds it’s a spaceship with alien artifacts inside, so he grabs them. When The Predator attacks, he only barely manages to get out alive. What better to do with those alien artifacts than mail them home to his nerdy genius son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who decides that they’d make a sweet halloween costume!
The wrinkle is that the first predator wasn’t just on a hunting jaunt to our favorite planet, he had stolen something from his world and brought it to Earth with him. A bit of hunting on the side? Seriously, who wouldn’t want to go after those silly humans! We realize all this when the second, bigger, way more bad-ass Predator shows up to collect what’s been stolen.
Enter Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), a disgruntled science teacher who is surprisingly unaffected by the increasingly weird and violent goings on. She has to contend with Baxley’s new “Group 2” compatriots too, other soldiers who have been sent to the looney bin for being crazy unmanageable or excessively violent. The gang is comprised of Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Lynch (Alfie Allen), and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). And they’re all a bit off-kilter in both amusing and offensive ways.
In fact it seems like director Black is deliberately thumbing his nose at the “politically correct police” with the dialog and action in this movie, from the crass and South Park-esque portrayal of a man with Tourettes Syndrome to a back and forth about the use of the word “retarded” to describe someone. I wasn’t at all offended, but there are sure to be people who protest and complain.
Don’t get me wrong, The Predator is not a great action/horror movie. It is, however, highly entertaining and if you can ignore the plot holes, storyline gaffes, illogical sequences and unnecessary moments of gore, it is a surprisingly amusing film. Certainly the theater where I saw the screening was full of laughter and groans as the story proceeded. Don’t go because you think it’s an important addition to the the Predator franchise, don’t go hoping someone will say “get to the chopp-ah”, just go because you and your buddies need a good laugh to blow off some steam.
Tip: This film really isn’t suitable for pre-teens and many young teens. Lots of aggressive, in-your-face violence and gore could easily put off the more sensitive members of your group.