It makes sense that writer-director Shane Black would make a Predator film – he was one of the Rasta-alien’s first victims in the 1987 original. Unfortunately, the Predator is the victim this time, in a jokey and blokey sequel having a laugh at the expense of one of cinema’s coolest creatures.
Black and co-writer Fred Dekker (who gave us cult favourite The Monster Squad before killing off the RoboCop franchise) also make the same mistake as Ridley Scott’s Alien prequels, demystifying the monster and messing with established lore. Why do the Predators make return visits to Earth? Why do they take trophies? What’s with the dreadlocks? Do we really need (or want) to know?
Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is a US military sniper, whose stakeout of a Mexican drug cartel is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a Predator ship. The occupant is captured by a government agency committed to studying the aliens, while McKenna is sent off to therapy with a busload of ex-military misfits, but not before salvaging a helmet and camouflage device which he sends home for safekeeping.
McKenna’s young son (Jacob Tremblay) gets hold of the gear, and being on the autism spectrum of course makes him a whiz with alien tech, precipitating the arrival of a bigger and deadlier Predator.
The Predator is a movie with an identity crisis – is it a parody of past Predator films, a homage to ’80s sci-fi actioners, or a Shane Black tough guy film with Predators shoehorned in? It wants to be all of the above, but struggles to reconcile it all into a cohesive and satisfying whole.
Rampant machismo and snappy dialogue have always been Black’s forte (he wrote some cracking action classics like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout) but this time the rapid-fire F-bomb wisecracks quickly wear thin. And the flippant tone isn’t helped by the introduction of a couple of Predator dogs (a hunter needs hounds, after all), and a daft epilogue that’s a better fit for a Marvel movie than the Predator-verse.
The Predator does, however, deliver the action goods, hitting the ground running and barely pausing for breath. It’s chaotic, relentless and ultraviolent (bodies are ripped apart, guts are spilled and spinal cords ripped out), but ultimately stupid and disappointing. Surely Black and Dekker had the tools to come up with something better.
In cinemas: September 13, 2018
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Shane Black