Nutshell: Many a moviegoer messes up when they hit the multiplex and expect Grand Cinema from action horror. And while this film ain’t Citizen Kane by a long shot, The Predator‘s particular blend of action, horror and laughs are just what the doctor ordered for this weary horror-hound. Grade: B
“They’re large, they’re fast, and fucking you up is their tourism.”
Story: An alien crash-lands onto Earth. Hey – that’s how E.T. started! Yeah, and how The Blob started. When this particular UFO crashes down, it brings a whole lot of mayhem to a group of black-ops soldiers. So when the lone survivor heads home, of course he’s put into a group of guys headed for “psych eval”. But surprise y’all – where there’re going is exactly where the deadly alien has been brought to! And guess what else – a bigger, badder alien is coming to hunt it down. With Predato-pups!
Genre I’d put it in: Finally A Decent Sequel Sequels
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Part of the Predator franchise. That makes it four movies, or six if you count the two AVP films. (I do. Why not?)
Gotta say: I love Predator. AH-NULD! Nuff said. I even enjoyed Alien vs. Predator, with the way it mixed canon with a fun Cube-esque spin. Okay, so maybe Predators didn’t do it for me, but what do you expect from something so ham-handedly inept? However, with The Predator director Shane Black goes back to the fun and all-out mayhem that made the original so enjoyable in a B-movie kinda way. Sure, the editing of action scenes gave me whiplash a time or three, but all in all, fans of 80’s horror schlock will find a lot to love with this film.
First, the cast is game as hell. Boyd Holbrook’s HMFIC Quinn McKenna manages to keep a fine balance between playing it straight and keeping his tongue firmly in cheek. Quinn has the usual badass military man movie problems; an estranged wife (The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Yvonne Strahovski, wearing a shirt I’d absolutely kill for) and on the spectrum/genius son (The Room‘s Jacob Tremblay) as well as the usual “nobody believes me” thing horror movies love so well. It’s great to see Strahovski play a character that isn’t the devil incarnate, and her ability to portray a regular suburban gal feels deceptively easy. And have I mentioned her killer shirt yet? Because it’s killer. God, I love that damn shirt.
As Quinn’s son Rory, Tremblay gives a believable performance that avoids the tacky, overdone pitfalls that trip up many when playing the disabled. With stellar performances Room, Wonder, and Book of Henry, it’s no wonder he seems to be the go-to kid for the double-aughts. Sadly, as this film is firmly in B-movie genre fare Tremblay most likely won’t get credit for this performance. But it’s well done, even though there’s the usual “genius knows alien tech like it’s NBD” stuff. The FX for said tech is groovy every time it’s on screen, so I’ll let that slide.
Speaking of well done, the cameraderie of the “Loonies” is a hoot. Here’s another casting director that needs a medal; the onscreen chemistry between these guys is one of the main reasons to watch this film. Keegan-Michael Key’s dirty-joke loving Coyle is particularly fun to watch, and had me leaving the film with a joke I definitely wanted to share…with the right folks. Trevante Rhodes’ suicidal Nebraska is a badass who just happens to have issues, and this character is the one I really came to care about. Thank you, Rhodes, for that.
Y’know what – the same can be said of the entire crew here. From Alfie Allen’s fast-talking Lynch to Augusto Aguilera’s bible-obsessed Nettles, each character gets his own thing. It may feel like cookie-cutter characterization out of context, but these actors give each character a human quality. My only iffy thing? Thomas Jane as Baxley, who suffers from Tourette Syndrome. Yes, Jane brings a quiet pain to Baxley, both with his PTSD and Tourette’s, but several times his disorder is played for comedic effect. I loved how his crew had his back, though.
Black (The Nice Guys) co-wrote the screenplay with Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps), and their blend of action, shtick, and blood works well here. Because let’s face it; this isn’t a horror shock-fest. It’s not an action film. It’s an movie where military guys kill and get killed by dreadlocked monsters from outer space. A light, humorous touch works extremely well here. The casting of Olivia Munn as geneticist Casey Bracket was a good choice; her ability to hang with the fellas no matter what BS falls out of their mouths is not only Grrrl power, it’s deadpan mastery in action. I love that she’s just another one of “the guys” once things get going, giving as good as the rest of the crew.
Okay, I can’t go another second without mentioning a huge spoiler. Well, a sorta middling spoiler. Cue invisotext! Know those huge, killer Predato-pups in the trailer? One gets shot in the head by Our Gang…and becomes sweetly attached to Bracket. Awww! I want a lobotomized Predato-pup! There’s not much screen time for that pup, with it mainly serving as a moment or two of kaiju kawaii, but I can’t help it. Puppa just wants to be part of the gang! Adorbs.
Let’s be honest here; I worried that this film wouldn’t be as cool as the trailers made it out to be. But it’s cooler. So mah people. Mah horror people. And most especially mah 80’s monster movie horror people. Go. Grab popcorn and candy. Have fun.