The Predator Movie Review
Nostalgia claims another victim with The Predator, Shane Black’s flaccid attempt to recapture the awesomeness of the Arnold Schwarzenegger original through pithy one-liners and an abundance of gore. Oh, and annoying characters and an over-reliance on comedy in an attempt to hide just how bad the beloved screenwriter is at directing legit action.
The 1987 film, though not without its humor, is a legitimately ruthless action film that pits hardened soldiers, and eventually just Arnold, against a perfect killing machine.
You’d think that any attempt to recapture the magic of the original would aim to mirror that tone at least just a little.
But no, not Black, who so absorbed in his desire to make people laugh decided to make a movie that has the Predator going against a group of misfit soldiers so crazy and loopy that they literally refer to themselves as “the Loonies.” These men, consisting of the likes of Keegan-Michae Key and Thomas Jane, playing a fit-for-the-80’s-but-probably-offensive-now soldier suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome, basically spend an hour and a half throwing jokes at one another even when faced with imminent death. The Predator is indeed funny, but even the film’s best jokes seem to be drawn from some decades-old journal that Black keeps next to his bed just in case he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking of something off-color to say in some future movie.
Less funny is that the movie’s plot largely makes no sense and bounces its characters around from one set piece to the next like a poorly designed pinball machine, rarely stopping to explain anything or why characters are doing what they are doing (ask Sterling K. Brown what his character is supposed to be and I guarantee he’ll say he has no idea). Olivia Munn’s character goes from frightened scientist to gun-toting badass in the matter of minutes with no explanation whatsoever, but at least that is more of a character arc than is given to star Boyd Holbrook, who looks confused most of the time. Jacob Tremblay plays an autistic savant who is able to decode the Predator technology but feels woefully out of place in what should be an adults-only fight to the death.
The Predator isn’t without its action and gore, and in fact it has plenty of both. From a sheer quantity perspective, Black keeps his movie churning, if not lurching forward, with a gleeful amount of absolutely bloody killings.
But it all feels lazy, as if a) Black is more interested in the comedy than the action; and b) Black just isn’t a very good action director.
The action gets worse as the movie progresses, culminating in a finale that you expect may at least attempt to mirror the greatness of Arnold’s showdown back in the 80’s but turns out to be a pathetically cheesy gun battle that barely holds your interest. Between the so-so visual effects and the film’s constantly changing tone, it’s almost impossible to get engrossed in what is happening, let alone care for any of the characters.
Despite all its faults, The Predator is moderately entertaining if only because Black never stops to let you question what the hell you’re watching in the moment, but upon further reflection it seems violently opposed to trying to top, let alone match, the intensity of the original. It’s a lazy, sloppy film (the editing, yuck) that will nonetheless win over less discerning fans who are looking for lots of action and plenty of blood--but that is hardly worthy of praise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.