Film Review | The Predator

It may not display the most disciplined storytelling you’re likely to see, but as a showcase of action, gore and on-point humour it’s hard to beat

Out of this world: The Predator (Brian A. Prince) has no time to waste in this fourth installment of the action-horror-sci-fi franchise that carries his name
Out of this world: The Predator (Brian A. Prince) has no time to waste in this fourth installment of the action-horror-sci-fi franchise that carries his name

It’s safe to say that the Predator enjoys a privileged position in the pantheon of movie monsters. The stealthy and efficiently brutal alien hunter who first debuted in 1987 courtesy of John McTiernan’s eponymous, Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring action-horror-sci-fi classic can confidently rub shoulders with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and, of course, 20th Century Fox’s other iconic creepy offering – the xenomorphs of the Alien franchise, with whom the Predator has duked it out in countless comic books and video games; a slugfest that even extended into two (disappointing) cinematic forays in the early noughties (Alien vs Predator and Alien vs Predator: Requiem).

Now, writer-director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man III) returns to the franchise that marked his mainstream debut... at least, as an actor. Yes, Black was actually among the unfortunate crew mowed down by the Predator in the jungle that marked the creature’s battleground in that iconic first film, playing the bespectacled Rick Hawkins alongside a felicitously put-together cast crowned by Arnie.

And what should have been a triumphant Hollywood arc – that actor subsequently became the go-to name for action-comedy directing, making his return to the Predator franchise a truly poetic thing – seems to have been quashed by a lack of confidence on the part of the studio. Though it may be tonally uneven and at times a tad too chaotic for its own good, Black’s film certainly did not deserve the buzz-killing trailer it got a month or so ago, and neither should it have been dumped during the blockbuster dead zone month of September.

Penned by Fred Dekker and Black himself, the story gets rolling down its pulpy, messy way straight away, as hardened Army Ranger Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holdbrook) witnesses a rouge Predator while scoping out a drug pick-up – an incident that leads to at least one dismembered colleague and Quinn in the centre of a cover-up. Mailing the remnants of the Predator armour to his estranged wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski) and autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) – like you do – Quinn ends up tagged, bagged and put on a prison bus with other military undesirables. Among them are Gaylord ‘Nebraska’ Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Lynch (Alfie Allen), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane) and Nettles (Augusto Aguilera). But the Predator – soon revealed to be one among several keen to capture the original rogue and establish dominance – is keen to collect, and poor Rory ends up in his cross-hairs after he mistakes daddy’s package for a fun video game.

Fighting to evade the military – led with mint-chomping, amoral gusto by Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) – with the help of scientist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) the rag-tag team of mad losers are pitted for a collision course with a preternaturally strong and agile intergalactic enemy... and their dogs.

Schlocky to its core and packing more one-liners than any Marvel romp would deign to shake an infinity gauntlet at, The Predator is not a film to be taken all that seriously... but it’s all the more fun for it. Wisely deciding not to attempt the fool’s errand of emulating the first film, Black keeps things quick, breezy and brutal, while still throwing a couple of jokey nods to John MacTiernan’s classic.

There are leaps in logic and logistics aplenty, and you get the impression that the characters exist to be repositories of gags rather than fully fleshed out roles – the magic ingredient of the 1987 debut film, it must be said. Still, viewers will get bang for their buck aplenty here, in a way that differs from the fastidious and overly-cautious franchise-building fare of other tentpole blockbusters.

In fact, perhaps delaying the film even further would have been the thing. If anything, this hilarious and blood soaked action-sci-fi-horror romp would have gone down a treat for Halloween.

The verdict

Critically panned for the most part and unceremoniously dumped during the inauspicious month of September, Shane Black’s The Predator nonetheless remains a gleeful slice of contemporary B-movie film-making. Sure, it may not display the most disciplined storytelling you’re likely to see, but as a showcase of action, gore and on-point humour it’s hard to beat. Where other blockbusters and busy building meticulously constructed franchises, Black gives us the gift of pure chaos – and it’s a joyous experience for those looking for that sort of thing.

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