So after lengthy reshoots and an awkward scandal or two, we finally get to set our sights on Shane Black’s reboot of The Predator (not The Pre-Dater which, I assume, would be two hours of watching a guy putting on aftershave and styling his hair).
Black, personally one of my favourite directors working in Hollywood today has previous experience with the franchise as he portrayed pussy-joke telling Hawkins in the original classic so my hopes were high for a new high point for the series but while the film falls short of everything it could be, it’s probably the purest, out and out beer ‘n pizza movie released this year.
To be brutally honest, you’d expect more intelligence from the writer-director of such witty thrillers as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Nice Guys or even the subversive, big budget Iron Man 3, however it’s exactly the kind of movie I’d expect from the writing duo of scrappy, cult fave The Monster Squad.
Black and his writing partner and long time buddy Fred Dekker have fashioned a breezy, casual, action-romp that’s woefully low on plot or logic but moves like it’s mainlining Red Bull directly into it’s eyeball. Defiantly un-PC, gleefully violent and as dumb and hard-headed as a pillow stuffed with armadillos, how much enjoyment you get from The Predator really depends on how high your tolerance for cinematic stupid is and how fine you are with the hunter’s fourth solo outing being a flat out action-comedy.
Firstly, comparisons with the original are frankly unnecessary. Predator is one of the greatest action movies ever made and this, quite frankly, is not, but that’s no real reason to write off such an undemandingly energetic giggle. A fugitive Predator on the run crash lands on earth and runs into Boyd Holbrook’s tough guy sniper in the midst of a mission, after the mandibled motherfucker is captured and Holbrook sends some stolen alien tech back home for proof he is railroaded as a PTSD suffering liability.
While his Asperger’s suffering son finds the tech and gets it to work, Holbrook bonds with the other passengers on the “Looney Bus” he’s being shipped off on. It’s a good job too because as the fugitive extra terrestrial messily escapes a government facility a bigger meaner breed of Predator arrives looking for it’s prey. Teaming up with Olivia Munn’s biologist, Holbrook and his motley band of foul-mouthed misfits race to save his son and desperately keep their spines in it’s original packaging.
Once you accept and move past the rather obvious no brainer that the greatest Predator movie that has or will ever be made was back in 1987, the hyperactive 2018 version is a little easier to enjoy. The more PC sensitive among you may be horrified the way that Asperger’s, PTSD and Thomas Jane’s Tourette’s are handled but then this is a film where a man is shot point-blank in the eye with a tranquilizer dart, subtlety isn’t exactly the order of the day here. Black seems so intent in keeping the pace so utterly relentless that he seems to wilfully neglect the storytelling abilities he’s known for. Some of action sequences are rendered confusing by some over-editing and any intimidation the 11 foot tall Super-Predator may have had is negated by some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in a major Hollywood release in years. And yet through all the wonky plot twists and excessive “Your Mama” jokes (so many yo’ mama jokes), I totally enjoyed myself. The throwback dialogue, excessive gore and a great deal of scene stealing by Sterling K. Brown as a smug government stooge, really scratched an itch for zany craziness that other watered down creature features Rampage and The Meg, simply couldn’t reach.
You probably won’t get more of a slice of cinematic marmite this year that’ll split audiences down the middle as much as this, but I enjoyed it just fine. On some level I’m always gonna enjoy Predators kicking ass on some level. It sure ain’t art, but for all it’s many flaws, The Predator just hits the target.