The Predator

The Predator Review: Get to Your Choppa, Poppa Predator Returns

The Predator

Movie Rating:

4

When it was announced that Shane Black would bring the Predator franchise back from the dead, it didn’t face nearly the same level of hype or skepticism as the return of the Alien series. The Predator has no masterful mythology to screw up. Even caring about that stuff at all was a step forward. All Black had to do was deliver an entertaining romp, and dammit he delivered. Obviously. That’s what he does.

In weird way, the Predator became an iconic movie monster by almost by accident. The initial Schwarzenegger-starring 1987 feature was supposed to be a B-movie at best before John McTiernan became one of the great action directors halfway through production. The monster was supposed to be a green rubber lizard played by Jean-Claude Van Damme until McTiernan unpacked the costume in the jungle and realized that it would be laughed off screen, leading to Stan Winston getting hired for a last minute redesign that resulted in one of his finest creations. The sequels were all cranked-out commercial products that were better than necessary without ever topping the original (except for AVP 2, of course; fuck that movie).

Black’s take on The Predator has a strong throwback element. That’s no huge surprise. The franchise still feels stuck somewhere in the late ’80s and Shane Black is himself a relic of dumb-dumb ’80s entertainment. That’s fine. We could use a little more bubblegum in the blockbuster world these days, and there’s nothing wrong with giving $100+ million to a guy who helped define the ’80s action boom to revive one of the most enduring franchises from that boom. Don’t let the small town setting and fairly contained cast fool you. This is the largest scale Predator movie that’s been produced to date and yet Black still made sure that it earned an R-rating with as much blood and salty language as he can cram in between the explosions. If you enjoy the Predator as a movie monster and can’t have fun with this movie, ring up a hearse because you’re probably dead (at least on the inside).

The movie doesn’t have much of a plot, just enough to combine the right number of characters to amass a decent body count. Boyd Holbrook plays an army super sniper who leads a gang of PSTD-suffering criminal soldiers. Holdbrook is obviously no Schwarzenegger, but he does the stoic action lead thing well enough. He also has a damn fine cast of wisecracking numbskulls around him to make up for it, from Keegan-Michael Key (who speaks exclusively in one-liners) to a Thomas Jane with Tourettes, and Trevante Rhodes from Moonlight on chain-smoking badass duties. Olivia Munn does a wisecracking scientist routine rather well and Jacob Tremblay throws an autistic kid into the mix as Holdbrook’s offspring. None of the characters have much depth, but there throw plenty of one-liners around and most of them blow up real good when the Predator gets nasty.

There are two Predators (and two Predator dogs) in this flick with some fun additions to the mythology via the script by Black and his former Monster Squad partner Fred Dekker. The duo clearly love this world, and fill the film with fan service winks, nudges, and callbacks without getting in the way of the relentlessly paced assault on the senses. The movie opens with a spaceship chase and barely lets up for a minute after that. The gore, explosions, effects, shocks, and zingers never stop coming. At times the “move forward at all costs” editing approach leads to some clunky storytelling and confusing gaps. (Lord knows how many reshoots were needed, but it’s safe to say plenty.) There’s also an irritating sequel-baiting ending and occasionally a little too much CGI for a throwback genre romp. Thankfully, the problems with the project are all fairly a minor and the sort of thing expected out of any Hollywood product of this scale, for better or worse.

Shane Black’s The Predator ain’t art and it won’t change the world, but damn is it ever a good time. Everyone is having fun from Black right on down to the bottom of the call sheet. This is the type of stupid movie by smart people that a cosplay icon like the Predator deserves. Sometimes paycheck projects aren’t bad as long as everyone involved knows what they’re doing and wants to serve up the finest heaping of buttery popcorn they can. This is one of those.

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21 comments

  1. Deaditelord

    Glad to hear the new Predator movie is decent. I’ll check it out this weekend. Can we expect a TIFF review of Halloween from you on here as well? 🙂

  2. I don’t know. I want this to be good, but the trailers have all looked awful, and I remember a former reviewer of ours hyping up 2010’s Predators, which sucked so bad I refuse to buy the Predator UHD Collection until I can get both of the first two movies without that one.

      • I will be the third to voice out that I am glad Phil is back. He seems to be one of the most fair reviewers the site has, and there have been times where I have been like “wait, I saw that movie, why did Phil rate it so low or so high”, then read his review, and am like “oh, well, okay then, you have a point”.

        So welcome back, Phil

      • Timcharger

        “The man knows a good movie when he sees one.”
        Ah, ahh, ahhh, Last-Jedi-Chooo! Excuse me, pardon my throat; didn’t mean to interrupt.

      • It was an utterly pointless waste of time that just regurgitated the original film beat-by-beat with far lamer characters and action. I regret the 100 minutes I spent watching it.

    • Timcharger

      Josh: “Predators, which sucked so bad I refuse to buy the Predator UHD Collection…”
      “I regret the 100 minutes I spent watching it.”

      So while you are skeptical of Phil’s review and the 107 minutes of the Predator (2018) may also be regretted, I can’t imagine 1987’s Predator holding an beloved, endearing space in your heart. Fun, B-movie yeah. But it’s not like the characters adorned your childhood bedroom walls, and you had a pillowcase of a camouflaged Arnold.

      Even if Phil’s review is wrong for you, and the predator is now an emasculated, grumpy old alien who just subverts our expectations when it jokingly throws his laser cannon over his shoulder, what’s the big deal?

  3. Bolo

    It’s nice to have Phil back and I do value his opinion, but this movie looks lousy. Shane Black’s main strength is writing fun banter, but all the one liners and quips in the trailer feel really forced and lame. As a director, I’ve only ever found his staging to be competent at best, and he’s never demonstrated any knack for suspense, which a ‘Predator’ movie needs. Most other reviews being negative doesn’t help either, although many of them are negative for reasons that don’t carry any weight with me (disliking a movie because the characters are not good role models for children).

    I’ll be seeing ‘Mandy’ this weekend.

      • Timcharger

        Julian: “…and great taste.”
        “The man knows a good movie when he sees one.”

        No one seriously believes the paid-off remark; no need to defend that. But I wonder what happens that one day, when if finally occurs, that you don’t like something that Phil loved? Even Josh has doubt in this situation.

  4. Timcharger

    Phil: “This is the type of stupid movie by smart people..”

    Smart?! Shane, or should it be Shame Black? No comments about this in the review? I only heard about this yesterday. It’s just stupid to cast a registered sex predator in Predator. My understanding is that the scene the convicted actor was in, the script had him sexually harass Olivia Munn. Shame Black wrote that scene?! Stupid, stupid, stupid. That’s supposed to be a coincidence? So a director unknowingly put Jeffrey Dahmer in his movie and wrote in a cannibal scene??? Black is claiming that he was misled by his friend. The guy served jail time for it. He plead guilty to 2 felonies involving a 14 year old minor. Black is silent about the nature of the deception, but why not say it clearly, was Black told that the jailing was for tax evasion instead? After knowing (or not fully knowing?) Black cast him in Iron Man 3. And again in Nice Guys. And this time, Black cast him for being a sexual harasser. If Munn didn’t learn of this actor’s past, and go public with it (the studio Fox then cuts that scene out); I gotta imagine Shame Black would have his friend in his next project, Doc Savage. Would there then be a pedophile scene in Doc Savage?

    Munn famously came forward about Bret Rattner being a sexual predator (along with many other women). So this sh*t stinks bad for Black. Sure looks like Black was being a cruel a-hole. Or it’s a most unbelievable coincidence.

    • Timcharger

      Phil, did you see an earlier release of the film before the Steve Wilder (or Steven Wilder Striegel) harassment scene of Munn was cut out?

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