By Jim Slotek
You’d think the Predator series would be played out by now, with the original and its direct sequels, plus Aliens versus Predator and Predators Go Hawaiian (okay, I made up that last one).
But director/co-writer Shane Black, indulging his tendency towards glibness, brings an outright comic touch that turns the latest interaction between humans and these dreads-wearing extraterrestrial big-game hunters, into something of a bloody romp – as inappropriate as that sounds (and often is).
First, The Predator breaks out of the predictable template of unaware humans being snuck up on and gutted by invisible hunters (which was never very sporting, if you ask me).
In this chapter, the government knows all about the alien Predators and their modus operandi. And when a rogue Pred crash-lands in the jungle (disrupting a terrorist/captive handoff) they are all over it, bringing the specimen into the usual Area 54 type lab where things will inevitably go awry.
The “awry” actually begins in the jungle, where a military sniper named Quinn (Boyd Holbrook) encounters the intruder first and, after knocking him out with his own weaponry, ships some of the alien technology by mail to his own home (and wife and son) and, um, swallows another bit of tech to be retrieved later gastrointestinally.
Thus does this convoluted plot – about a fugitive alien-human hybrid and a vengeful second Predator on a clean-up mission – come to America.
Add rapidfire quips and gunfire, a rag-tag bunch of lovable Section 8 military psychos (including Keegan-Michael Keyand a veteran with Tourette’s whose condition is played for laughs – did I say some of this was inappropriate?), a sniper who’s stolen alien tech (Boyd Holbrook), an Asperger-savant child (Jacob Tremblay) who deciphers it, a woman astronomer (Olivia Munn) who can handle a gun, some cute alien dogs, untrustworthy government agents and gratuitous gore. Absorb all that and you have a confused audience that, if it is undemanding enough, will be nonetheless entertained by all the sound and fury.
The decision to lighten things up actually makes sense, given that the original – full of the usual Schwarzenegger wisecracks – holds up best. Opting to throw a bunch of explanations at us, and even sort of introduce us to alien politics, maybe not so much. If that’s where the series is going, best to stop here before it falls down the narrative rabbit hole.
Even with its manic pacing, however, The Predator can’t help but stretch its schtick too long at just under two hours. By the end, tens of thousands of rounds of machine gun fire have been aimed at both Predators to almost no effect. You’d think at a certain point, they’d stop shooting at it and consider more effective responses.
The Predator. Directed by Shane Black. Starring Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay and Olivia Munn. Opens wide, Friday, September 14.