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THE PREDATOR gets 6/10 Hunting party


Directed by Shane Black

Starring Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes

6/10

Full disclosure time. I’m old enough to remember when Predator was more than just a GIF of the most macho handshake in existence, or the origin of “get to da choppa”. Hell to be brutally honest, I’m old enough to remember when pitting this alien hunter species against a popular acid spitting xenomorph was a longed for team up, rather than a series of bitterly disappointing films. Unfortunately, despite the iconic 80s action film, and a few shining moments in sequels (the anarchic fun of Predator 2 and a stunning iaijutsu duel in Predators) the franchise has fallen fallow. Can director Shane Black (writer of the Lethal Weapon films, and the actor that played Hawkins in the original Predator) make this one a memorable hunt?

The Predator sets itself up well, starting off similarly to Predator (complete with some visual and musical callbacks to the first film), but then demonstrating its uniqueness. When a Predator ship is shot down in Mexico, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), becomes the only member of a Ranger’s fire team to survive the encounter with the alien. Now facing a psychiatric evaluation as part of a cover up of the alien encounter, he must race both the alien and government forces to recover the Predator technology he smuggled to his son (Jacob Tremblay).

One thing you can say about The Predator is that it certainly tried, doing as much right as it does wrong… almost. It furthers the mythos of the Predator world, explaining some questions that have been raised by previous films. It also opens up the opportunity for further films in the series to expand into something different than a rehash of the original movie, albeit in a variation of the setting and a slightly differing permutation of the plot. However it does this in an exceptionally ham-fisted way, often dropping exposition out of the blue, without it raising organically out of the scene. In trying to cram so much into its plot line (even if it is dealing with it superficially) The Predator ends up muddled.

The thing is, it is still an enjoyable film.

Despite the unfocused plot, and some confusing fight choreography, there is a sense of fun that permeates this film. The comic elements work well here, as Black’s (and co-writer Fred Dekker) dialogue rolls off the cast’s tongues. It allows the audience to bond with them, forming a likeable bunch of misfits. Sure none of the characters are really given enough to do, or any development, but we actually find ourselves caring for the military reprobates of “therapy group 2” (The Dirty Dozen like crew of clinically insane military inmates that McKenna forms to take on the Predator). The suburban setting also works in The Predator’s favour, giving it a very 80s Spielberg feeling (via Stranger Things). That linage of science fiction films is something that The Predator is very aware of, and pays a decent amount of fan-service to throughout, both to the previous iterations in the franchise, but also to popular films in the genre (E.T, Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

Ultimately The Predator is a fun mess rather than a solid sequel/ soft reboot of the franchise.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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