Film Review – The Predator
Monster movies are fun. And there’s no doubt that the creature design from the original Predator film from 1987 is one of the great makeup jobs in film. H.R Giger‘s creature design for Alien is still superior, but the look of that “One ugly mother” F-er from the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit did capture the imagination of the audience. But let’s also be frank, time has not been kind to the Predator films. The muscly, very sweaty and macho original is still the best of the series. But even that movie is very guilty of dating itself quite badly. It’s filled with so much posturing testosterone and 80’s action movie tropes that it looks quite silly in modern times. It’s a joy to watch, but so very much part of the Rambo era. Meanwhile the rest of the series proves the law of diminishing returns. Predator 2 has aged horribly. Full of racial stereotyping, ham handed action clichés, and Gary Busey, the only real highlight was the hint at the end that it shared a universe with the Alien franchise. And the less said about the AVP: Alien vs. Predator movies the better. So, it is a relief to report that the newest entry is the best acted and maybe the best film in the series at least since the original. It’s not flawless or a classic, but The Predator is an entertaining action movie.
Our story begins with Boyd Holbrook as Quinn Mckenna, a mercenary on a rescue mission in a Mexican jungle. His operation is interrupted by the crash landing of the titular monster’s spaceship whose occupant proceeds to slaughter most everyone around. Quinn is able to retrieve the Predator’s mask and mails it back to his house without anyone knowing so he has tangible proof before government types cover it up. When it arrives his Savant-esque son, who is under the care of his estranged wife, discovers the mask and unlocks it’s secrets. Quinn is then scooped up by authorities to be committed to a facility since he keeps bringing up alien attacks. Meanwhile, Olivia Munn‘s character is a doctor recruited by a secret agency lead by an egomaniacal character played by Sterling K. Brown. The doctor is shown that this group has the captured alien and are studying his belongings. They are keeping him sedated, but of course the Predator ends up escaping and wholesale mayhem in the facility ensues.
This is happening while Quinn is thrust with a colorful group of military vets with various degrees of mental problems. This group of 5 includes a guy with Tourette’s played by Thomas Jane, a smart-ass jokester played by Keegan-Michael Key, and a formerly suicidal vet played by Trevante Rhodes. En route to the hospital, their bus trip is derailed by the escape of The Predator. So they band together with Munn’s character as kind of a Dirty Half-Dozen to fight the alien invasion and to save the boy before The Predator tries to retrieve his lost technology. Spines are ripped out, explosions occur, guns are fired, and a good time is had by all.
Shane Black directed and co-wrote this movie with the cult favorite Fred Dekker. The dialogue is the best thing about this movie. This film has a great sense of humor about itself. Whether it’s the recurring joke about how calling it a Predator is technically a misnomer since it actually hunts for sport or how virtually every character is allowed to be smart enough to call each other out when they are full of crap, snappy rapport is the movie’s greatest asset. Black has come full circle here. He was played the smart aleck in the first movie (as well as being that creature’s first victim from that group) and now he gets to put his trademark banter into these character’s mouths. Also, this is definitely the best cast any of these movies have seen. Even in an elevated B-movie like this, it really does help to have on-screen talent that you care to watch.
The biggest drawback here is, it’s just not scary. Action packed, yes. But not scary. At least this is an R rated entry instead of the PG-13 nonsense they’ve tried to pull in the past a couple of times. This monster needs to be ruthless and violent. And he is here. Folks get decapitated. People lose limbs and get holes blown in them. Good stuff. It’s fun mayhem if not particularly original.
(Also to note, Shane Black’s signature move of referencing Christmas is ignored this time around though part of it is set during Halloween, so he’s expanding his holiday calendar)
The Predator is fun. Off screen it’s been courted by controversy surrounding a supporting actor who Olivia Munn called out for being a convicted sex-offender and the subsequent fallout from that. For the record, she was right to make it public and it’s lame that most of the production is having trouble supporting her. But there is no remnant of that actor in the finished film. What we do have is kind of silly, violent, funny fun.