Writer/director (and former Predator star) Shane Black helming a new generational Predator film should’ve been a slam dunk in nearly all aspects. He’s a filmmaker well versed in the action genre (The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and Iron Man 3 just some of his contributing efforts) and he’s sharing screenwriting duties with Fred Dekker having won over genre fans 3 decades prior with their collaborative cult horror comedy The Monster Squad. The resulting product is one peppered with a few neat nods to the original, as well as honing a decent sense of humour about itself, and owning its adult rating in the process. So why then does it not entirely reach the heights it deserves to?
Treating the previous films (or at least the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring original and the misguided Danny Glover-led sequel) as part of this outing’s timeline, The Predator refers to its titular alien force as if it’s been here before; Sterling K. Brown’s annoyingly cocky government agent having self-dubbed the Predator moniker due to his extensive research over the years. Wanting to keep outsider knowledge of the Predators at bay, the government seek out military sniper McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) when he survives an ordeal with the dreadlocked creatures and ship him off on a bus packed to the brim with various anti-heroes, including Tourette’s-afflicted military vet Baxley (Thomas Jane), former marine Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), and wise-cracking Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), all of whom are very obviously looked at as collateral damage for the government big-wigs.
If it wasn’t bad enough that McKenna’s a witness to the existence of the Predator, he’s shipped a swag of alien weaponry to his home prior to his capture, and once it becomes evident that his on-the-spectrum son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) has found said swag and inadvertently summoned another Predator to their city, it doesn’t take very long for the blood-soaked s**t to hit the fan and various body parts to go flying in the crossfire. Will McKenna, his rag-tag group of recruits, and alien life-force expert Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) save the day in time? Ultimately, you don’t really care but at least the film pretends that we’re going to invest in the wellbeing of its cardboard cut-out ensemble.
Whilst a film like The Predator isn’t designed to evoke emotion from its susceptible audience, Black is at least capable of writing a script that goes beyond the archetypes we expect, so the film can’t help but feel disappointing when it offers up a hoard of characters ripe with potential and lets them play out without so much as a shift in their brand. As well, there’s a healthy smattering of talent involved and though they all adhere to their character outlines suitably, none of the performers go beyond their limits either. That being said, when Holbrook and co. are sparring off one another the film feels alive, almost to the point that it becomes funnier than it is action-heavy.
The overt use of humour could prove either to be a major hit or miss with audiences as The Predator isn’t a name you associate with hearty self-deprecating laughs, but given how utterly ridiculous the premise is and that this 2018 outing roots itself in the mindset of the 1980’s, it makes perfect sense that it approaches proceedings with a laugh at the ready as it’s the type of actioner that shouldn’t be taking itself at all seriously.
As humorous as this is though, there’s still bloody action to be splayed across the screen, and Black has indeed embraced the film’s adult rating with a neat series of violent set-pieces that should satisfy the gore-hounds who felt the previous films didn’t quite take advantage of what the Predator is capable of. On the topic of action, as heavy on the machoism the film is, a lot of the sequences themselves feel slightly clunky and over-edited to the point that it’s difficult to decipher just what is transpiring in front of us. Characters pop up in destinations that seem impossible from where they were only moments prior, certain demises aren’t given the focus one would expect, and the final act is such a messy attempt at recreating the original film that it’s difficult to not walk away underwhelmed.
As negative as my review comes off, The Predator is far from a terrible movie, it’s just not a particularly memorable one. There’s so much potential on hand here that had there been a little more tightening around the edges and the want to deliver investing characters, Black could’ve given us something truly entertaining as opposed to a lightweight, blood-soaked popcorn thriller that entertains wholeheartedly throughout its running time but barely stays with you after the credits have begun rolling.
About The Predator
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, 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 young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
The Predator (MA15+) is screening in Australian theatres from September 13th 2018.