THE PREDATOR (4 out of 10) Directed by Shane Black; Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker; Starring Boyd Holbrook, Keegan Michael-Key, Olivia Munn, and Jacob Tremblay; Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and crude sexual references; Running time 107 minutes; In wide release September 14.
Shane Black has become known for writing and directing some fantastic films. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys are wonderfully done and have whip-smart dialogue; and while not everyone can agree on Iron Man 3, he obviously worked well with Robert Downey Jr., and it was fun seeing the two collaborate again after helping revive the latter’s career with Kiss Kiss. Taking that into consideration and the fact Black was finally coming full circle after fixing the script for and playing Rick Hawkins in the original Predator, this should have been a slam dunk for him. It’s not. The Predator, while ridiculous, is loaded with problems that make it instantly forgettable.
Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is an Army Ranger who survived an attack by a Predator that crash landed on earth. The American government has known about their existence for decades and to keep their existence secret, transfers him to a mental institution. Before being brought in, however, he shipped some of the Predator’s tech to his house to keep as evidence of what he encountered, and that tech is now in the hands of his autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) who is being tracked by a second, evolved Predator sent to recover it. McKenna escapes along with a group of mentally unstable soldiers and is joined by biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to track down his son before the government or the Predators find him.
The 80s Predator is far from high art, but no one really expects to find the meaning of life or anything deep in an alien-filled, action movie. People just want to watch things explode, enjoy some fun, if over-the-top dialogue, and see lots of blood and gore. That’s what worked so well for the original, and that was really all Black and company had to do in this iteration. They partially succeeded. The Predators look cool and use their skills and technology to great effect. In fact, the last 30 minutes or so are some of the most blood-soaked in any film of recent memory, and the practical effects used to kill and dismember people will have gore hounds thrilled. But a movie cannot stand on murder alone and must have more than just the occasional thrill to keep audiences interested.
Even the tightest script and most edited film is bound to have a plot hole here or there, but The Predator has holes that tractor trailers could fall into. Yes, there is as basic plot to follow along with, but the reasons given as to why the Predators are here make no sense in relation to their actions as events play out. Explanations are continually doled out, but the information and viewpoints provided are either irrelevant and confusing, or offensive to people on the Autism spectrum. It also attempts to retcon the real reason they have been visiting the planet all along, which was something no one really asked for or wanted.
But the biggest shortfall is the script itself, which is normally where Black shines. Jokes are forced, one-liners fall flat, and characters utter cringe-worthy dialogue as they attempt to banter with each other and bolster their courage before shouting obscenities at their alien hunters. It’s nearly agonizing to sit through especially when thinking back to what he has accomplished with his past films. It’s almost as if he went on a bender at a frat party and asked a bunch of drunk, horny college bros what they would like to see in a Predator film and used their advice verbatim. It’s confusing and absolutely distracts from what could have been a fun film.
The Predator really isn’t worth anyone’s time or money, but hardcore fans may find some things to enjoy even if everyone else is left scratching their heads. The practical effects and action sequences are fun and help keep things moving, but they can’t make up for all its other shortcomings. The best thing to do for anyone feeling nostalgic would be to pop in the newly released 4K of the original and sit back with a beer and laugh at the cheesy dialogue and dated special effects. At least with that, people know what they are getting into, and it makes a lot more sense than the sequel in theaters now.
4 out of 10
Image credit: L.A. Times