First thing’s first, I love Predator. It’s the quintessential maximum machismo 80’s genre film. From the steady one-liners and bicep-flexing standoff, to the battle cries and dramatic deaths, Predator is one of those deeply nostalgic, ridiculous-in-retrospect films.
So, that said, with the announcement of a new Predator, we heard a divisive buzz of either excitement or concern. Do we need another entry in the (overall inconsistent) Predator franchise? Whatever side you land on, The Predator is a serviceable – though a bit messy – throwback to the campy, violent fun that made the first film such a classic.
Shane Black – who played Hawkins, the wise-cracking first on-screen victim of the Predator in the 1987 original – has returned to serve as co-writer and director for this newest installment.
Black has a solid track record of writing quippy, fast-moving scripts – such as, Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. But while The Predator‘s dialogue has steady comedic beats, the film itself moves a frantic mile a minute, leaving a few clunky edits in its wake.
A large part of this is surely due to the numerous reshoots and changes, including a last-minute edit to cut a scene in which a registered sex offender (and long-time friend of Shane Black) worked opposite Olivia Munn without her knowledge or consent.
These clunky edits are most noticeable during a particular suburban action sequence. It feels like some shots were cut and shifted around, so there are a few cutaway moments that subtly interrupt the scene’s overall rhythm.
Then there is, of course, the Mega-Predator. The trailer’s first appearance of this x-treme foe and his dogs (can we call them that?) was met with some trepidation from fans who questioned why the franchise would need to take that extra over-the-top step.
Why? Because it’s 2018, dammit.
It’s an over-the-top step for an over-the-top franchise, and really, there’s nothing wrong with that. And to be fair, this new melodramatic foe is not just a final boss battle – he’s the baseline for the whole plot of the movie.
Mega-Predator aside, The Predator feels significantly more modern than its predecessors. Yes, of course the technology and dialogue have changed in the past few years, but the whole energy of the film has a cheeky, sardonic, swagger-fuelled humor blended in with messaging on the affects of military service, veteran support, and (very briefly) global warming.
That said, the film doesn’t really take a strong stance on these social issues; they’re used more as set dressing than plot development. Black is a fantastic screenwriter when he’s able to focus on character-driven plot and dialogue, but the frequent action interludes and attempts to appeal to a broader, fan-based audience make it more of a challenge.
While 1987’s Predator follows an elite group of mercenaries and soldiers on a mission, The Predator‘s group of highly trained soldiers are more like the Oorah version of the Island of Misfit Toys. They’re flawed, shaky, and a little unhinged. They’re also just pure fun to watch thanks to delightful performances from the cast.
The dialogue is packed with punchy points of humor that are expertly delivered by the fantastic ensemble. Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera star as the B-team of soldiers. Olivia Munn plays the token female scientist who gets wrapped up in the action, and Sterling K. Brown acts as a generic antagonist (who steals every scene he’s in, because Sterling K. Brown is a damn treasure).
Special mention to Augusto Aguilera as Nettles, who came out of nowhere to deliver the film’s most earnest moments with perfect comedic timing.
As an action film, The Predator has guts and gore galore. Several moments of violence received enthusiastic reactions of guttural awe from the TIFF audience. These action sequences are the best reminder of what, at heart, the Predator franchise is all about; a relentless, unstoppable hunter that puts highly trained soldiers way out of their league.
Overall, the movie itself is uneven and – at times – rushed. But still, I enjoyed it for the pure, vicious fun of it. f you’re looking for wild, popcorn-chomping entertainment with brutal kills and cheeky camaraderie, The Predator is a perfect choice.
The Predator hits theaters September 14th