Director: Shane Black
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay
Review Author: Tony
Shane Black is a name I associate with quality script writing, standout characters, and hilarious anecdotes and quips. He’s not as well-known as directors like Scorsese or Nolan, or even writers such as Sorkin, but thanks to years in the industry he’s amassed quite a cult following. Rising to prominence as one of the pioneers of the buddy cop genre, Black has made a successful transition from writer to director with cult classics such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys and even broke all kind of box office records back when he helmed Iron Man 3.
It’s not exactly shocking news that a 26-year-old man (I have a beard and pay taxes so I’m allowed to call myself this) loves Predator, but I do. A fucking lot. My love even extends to the sequels, unironically. Predator 2 is goofy and silly in all the right ways and Predators feels like a genuine spiritual sequel to the first while expanding on the lore. This mandible, rasta alien has brought a significant amount of joy to my life.
A Predator ship crash lands on Earth, drawing the attention of a shadowy government organization codenamed “Stargazer” and an even bigger, more ruthless Predator. After an unfortunate encounter with the ships inhabitant, army sniper Quinn McKenna finds himself teaming up with a ragtag group of emotionally damaged soldiers, a science teacher, and his autistic son to take down the Galaxies most dangerous hunter (Sports Hunter).
The Predator feels like an opportunity for Black to rekindle his youth and revisit the 80’s, a decade where campy monster movies thrived. Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps screenwriter, Fred Dekker has been dusted off and brought in by Black to capture that unapologetic campy tone. The Predator shares more in common with Danny Glovers cheesier and more comedic Predator 2, than Arnie’s testosterone-heavy, stern-faced original. This is no more evident from the opening scene where our hero, Quinn McKenna, goes from wisecracks and betting on the fate of the hostages lives on his black ops mission to tussling with an interstellar party pooper.
For those worried that the film wouldn’t properly address the series R rated nature, I can happily confirm this is the most visceral Predator film to date. Blood and Gore flys so freely any empathy you had for henchmen and bystanders quickly dissipates. In fact, Black doesn’t really want his audience to feel anything other than a good time with his film littered with high-octane action, mountains of gore and plenty of gags. The cast is the films strongest point with a group of mentally unstable badasses called “The Loonies” becoming the most unlikely of protagonists. Each character has their moment to shine and their comedic delivery had me in stitches.
Unfortunately, a series of unwise decisions on Black’s part and heavy studio meddling drag the overall quality of the film down. The plot descends into WTF territory with established lore of the series being thrown out the window and giving an all new meaning to the term ‘weaponized Autism’. The editing is pretty choppy throughout but it reaches unwatchable levels in the third act where reshoots from the studio are glaringly obvious. Perhaps the films ultimate insult is to replace Stan Winstons classic Predator costume design with a hulking poorly CGI’d monstrosity (we do get at least one practical effects Predator).
The Predator is a hard pill to swallow because it’s obviously been butchered in post-production and at the whim of the dreaded test audiences but if I’m being honest, the overall story isn’t exactly worth the wait either. Trying to bring a franchise in a new direction is an admirable task but Black’s vision is so left field and odd it makes one question his level of awareness. Putting these flaws aside, strobe-like editing, and poor CGI becomes too hard to gloss over when weighing the good against the bad.
Rating: 2 / 5 Bud Light
Ok, for a Reel Time first I’m going to award the film another score based on fandom alone (I really love this series). There’s enough content in the first two acts to cater towards my Predator super fandom to warrant a future repeat viewing and nostalgic callbacks were a welcome surprise. Just hearing the original music alone is enough to boost my rating.
Predator Fan Rating: 3 / 5 Guinness