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 nowhere 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. Good enough effects that it was nominated for (but didn’t win) an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
The surprise hit spawned a number of sequels and at one point the Predator even faced off mano-a-mano 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. You’ll thank me later.
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 creature that rips humans apart purely for entertainment value.
And here’s what’s weird: It mostly works. Sure there are moments where it’s clear what other films director Shane Black was ripping off as the story unfolds, but while it’s a bit confusing, the overall movie is pretty darn entertaining. And yet, it’s almost as if there were two different writing teams involved in the script, 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 film.
Yes, there’s more than one Predator. The story starts out with military sniper Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) in the middle of a mission when something crashes into the jungle. Investigating, he finds alien artifacts but when The Predator attacks, he only barely gets out alive. What better to do with those alien artifacts then mail them home to his nerdy genius son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who decides that they’d make a sweet Halloween outfit!
The wrinkle is that the Predator wasn’t just on a hunting pleasure jaunt to our favorite planet, he had stolen something from his world and fled to Earth. A bit of hunting on the side? Who wouldn’t want to go after those silly humans? We realize all this when a second, bigger, 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, other soldiers who have been sent to the looney bin for being unmanageable or too 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 a 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 entertaining 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 Predator franchise, don’t go hoping someone will say “get to the chopp-ah”, go because you and your buddies need a good laugh to blow off some steam.
THREE 1/2 ATOMS OUT OF FIVE