Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Alfie Allen, Jane Thomas, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Gore)
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Opening Day: 13 September 2018
Synopsis: 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.
You’ve got to hand it to Shane Black – just when you thought that the ‘Predator’ series couldn’t sink any lower than 2004’s ‘AVP: Alien vs. Predator’, along comes his entry so aggressively determined to run the franchise to the ground. That is indeed ironic, considering just how much promise ‘The Predator’ once held. For one, it sure sounded like a good idea on paper to inject Black’s signature brand of black humour into the original’s blend of gory violence and souped-up machismo; for another, the cast comprising Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook and Keegan-Michael Key was an impressive ensemble to say the least. Yet by the end of a headache-inducing 107 minutes, you’d be struggling to understand how a Hollywood veteran like Black could screw up so f**king horribly.
Whether out of design or coincidence, Black buys himself some goodwill at the start with an opening sequence set in the jungle that is clearly meant as tribute to John McTiernan’s original (yes, the one that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger). Following a very brief scene of two Predators inside their ships duking it out in space, one of them zips through a wormhole and crash-lands somewhere in the Mexican jungle in time to upset a hostage rescue situation led by ex-U.S. Army sniper turned mercenary-for-hire Quinn McKenna (Holbrook). Quinn emerges as the sole survivor of that encounter, and decides to mail two pieces of Predator tech from the nearest cantina to his own P.O. box back home as evidence. No thanks to his unpaid bills, his parcel is redirected to his home, where his young autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) proceeds to display some extraordinary ability in deciphering alien technology.
Meanwhile, a top-secret research programme led by the mysterious Government agent Will Trager (Brown) enlists the help of evolutionary biologist Dr. Casey Brackett (Munn) to study the Predator itself, which has since been captured, transported and held sedated in a hidden laboratory. Trager is also responsible for placing Quinn under arrest and throwing him together with a bunch of ex-military ‘loonies’ played by Rhodes, Key, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera and Thomas Jane. Not surprisingly, the Predator regains consciousness and proceeds to wreck havoc in the lab, and in the ensuing melee, Casey will form an uneasy alliance with the raucous crew of PTSD-scarred banter machines. Just bringing these subplots and character arcs together almost seems like a Herculean task for Black and his co-writer Fred Dekker, who do so in such slapdash and frenzied fashion.
Worse still, it only gets more needlessly convoluted from that point on. As is to be expected, the second Predator also finds its way to our planet in due course, and the two aliens proceed to continue their mutual slugfest. But what is it exactly that they want from each other? What is it that the first Predator and then the second wants from Rory? What special qualities does Rory really possess? What is it that Trager and his team of government agents want so badly from Quinn that seems even more important than fighting them aliens? What is in it for Casey, who appears to be sticking around for much more than just research material? There is hardly any narrative logic to the proceedings, or for that matter little logic in the way the characters behave and act, which only grows increasingly frustrating as the movie trudges along. Mind you, we’re not talking real-world logic here, but just basic cinematic logic for us to even buy into what is going on onscreen.
Black’s singular preoccupation seems to be coming up with a string of killer one-liners that his bunch of misfits can roll off the tongue in the form of smart-aleck remarks laced with sexism and non-PC jibes. Admittedly, some like Will describing the Predators as ‘large, fast, and f**king you up is their idea of tourism’ is amusing, but others that make fun of conditions like Tourette syndrome (such as a scene where Jane’s character shouts ‘eat your pussy’ at Casey) or at the expense of Casey (like how she escapes the Predator by stripping naked in a quarantine zone) are tasteless or worse offensive. Even at the level of potty-mouthed humour, the ceaseless onslaught of jokes only prove sporadically funny – and it doesn’t help that Black choses to focus his movie on Holbrook’s character than say Brown’s viciously sarcastic one instead.
So taken is he by his own perceived wittiness that Black cannot even be bothered to direct a proper action sequence. Not only are these scenes haphazardly edited, they are also barely coherent, especially in conveying who dies and/or whether they should even matter. Even more depressing is Black’s apparent tone-deafness in mixing action and comedy, so much so that the latter often ends up diminishing the very impact of the former; after all, you cannot quite take a lethal Predator seriously enough when the characters seem more concerned with spewing rat-a-tat quips at one another than taking out the alien(s) right in front of them. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that this has probably the worst action out of all the ‘Predator’ films, and there’s only so much the casual display of R-rated gore and violence can compensate or disguise that.
If it isn’t yet obvious, do yourself a favour and spare yourself the agony of sitting through close to two hours of relentlessly loud, hopelessly dumb and needlessly convoluted science-fiction bullshit. ‘The Predator’ is not even B-movie fun, and the blame for that falls on Black, whose sloppy writing and indifferent direction has ultimately killed what could have been an interesting reinvention of the series. It may be slightly more than three decades old, but watching and re-watching Schwarzenegger’s 1987 original is probably a lot more entertaining than this mess. Hard to imagine that ‘The Predator’ was conceived as the start of a trilogy, since we suspect those like us who have seen it will probably want this grotesque movie sliced open, gutted and left out to dry.
(Just when you thought you had seen the worst of the 'Predator' movies, along comes this relentlessly loud, hopelessly dumb and needlessly convoluted mess that makes you want to put the franchise out of its own misery)
Review by Gabriel Chong