Since the release of the release of John McTiernan’s 1987 original, the Predator franchise just hasn’t been able to catch a break. After sending the titular monster to the city, multiplying the amount of Predators, and having it fight the xenomorph from Alien twice, none of the sequels managed to capture the cult success of the original. I have the feeling that just might change.
Director Shane Black’s The Predator is a deeply weird movie, one that eschews the horror of the original for more of an action-comedy vibe, with a heavy emphasis on the latter. This is sure to put a lot of people off, just as it did with Black’s own Iron Man 3, but those who roll with the change in tone will find themselves rewarded with a gory, hilarious good time that just might be the best in the entire franchise.
Let’s start with the story: When military man Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) has a run-in with one of the Predators, he’s thrown into confinement with a bunch of ex-soldiers as the government denies his claims, all the while secretly taking the creature to a secret facility for research by biologist Casey Brackett (Olivia Munn). Expectedly, the Predator breaks out, leaving the “Loonies” and Brackett to team up to stop it. However, things get a little more complicated with the arrival of another, much bigger Predator, while Quinn’s troubled son (Jacob Tremblay), who is bullied because of his autism, falls in the middle of the conflict.
The story is all over the place, though you get the sense that’s kind of the point. The script, by Black and Fred Dekker, feels more like a send-up of the franchise rather than a serious entry, putting the emphasis on how many jokes and creative action set-ups they can pack into the lean 107 minute run time.
A movie like this can live or die on the actors’ commitment to its zaniness, so it’s no small feat that The Predator has no weak link in the cast. Boyd Holbrook is a fine replacement for Arnold Schwarzenegger, bringing a smarmy charm to the over-the-top machismo his role requires, whereas Olivia Munn is game for the variety of silly situations her character finds herself surrounded by. In a surprising turn, Sterling K. Brown has a downright sinister air about him as the human villain Will Traeger. He’s the guy you love the hate. Tremblay is pretty good here too, proving himself as more than “just the kid from Room“.
What most people are going to walk away talking about in the cast are “The Loonies”. Anchored by tried and true talents like Trevante Rhodes and Alfie Allen, the chemistry between these guys feels positively electric. Each moments with these characters is a joy, and they ensure that very few jokes miss the mark. My personal favorite is the love/hate relationship between Keegan Michael-Key and Thomas Jane’s characters, which leads to some of the film’s best moments.
Action-wise this film is top notch. Some shoddy CGI aside, it picks up the slack when it comes to downright mayhem. I don’t think there’s been a studio film this gory is quite some time. Black makes a point of showing both Predators dismember people in loads of creative ways, with a particular highlight being an extended sequence where the Predator lays waste to an entire room of lab technicians.
Accompanied by Henry Jackman’s memorable, jaunty score, the meatheads will be very satisfied by what’s on display here. Despite most of it being reshot, the third act of this film is an effective conclusion that continues this trend of balls-to-the-wall action sequences, leading me to believe that those reshoots actually improved the film for the better.
By the time the films wraps up on an utterly silly note suggesting a sequel, I found myself grinning from ear-to-ear. This film will not be everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, audiences could hate it. Nevertheless, The Predator accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, trying something wildly different with a stale franchise and giving it the shot in the arm it needed in the process.
‘THE PREDATOR’- From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. The universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and an evolutionary biologist can prevent the end of the human race.