It’s been 31 years since we first saw Shane Black’s Rick Hawkins get ripped to shreds 1987’s Predator, and in 2018’s The Predator, Black finds himself in the director's chair along with co-writing the script with fellow Monster Squad writing partner Fred Decker. For a franchise that has had its fair share of misfires (though I will say I actually quite enjoy 2013’s Predators) andhorrendous run-ins with the Xenomorphs, suddenly the thought of the next great Predator film became an actual possibility. Black’s distinct wit, style and proven track record in the action genre seemed like it could be the perfect opportunity to freshen up the stale franchise, but alas, the end result was more along the lines of a zany, unfocused mess that truthfully comes across as more of a parody of the series than an actual entry.
The Predator follows Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), a former U.S Army Sniper turned mercenary who’s next kill is interrupted by an encounter with a Predator who’s ship crash landed. After walking away with some of the alien’s super sweet tech, which he ships off to his Steven Hawking of a son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), a government agent ( the always fantastic Sterling K. Brown) brings him in for questioning along with a biologist (Olivia Munn) to study the creature further. Refusing to cooperate, McKenna finds himself on a bus headed to prison with a band of colorful characters called “The Loonies” (Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera), as the captured Predator breaks lose headed for his son.
Part of what made John McTiernan’s classic action thriller great was the suspense and mystery of not knowing what was out in the jungle and when it would strike. Black’s The Predator seems to have forgotten all of that, presenting itself as utterly off the walls insane, and not necessarily in a good way. The film is a tonal mismatch of straight-up comedy, action comedy and self-parody to the point where it was more like the Austin Powers of Predator movies. It also irritatingly tries its hand at sentiment through the good old “it’s all about family” trope, but as an audience member, it’s simply impossible to buy into due to a severe lack of establishing the necessary relationships. Add on top of that hollow characters that truthfully, are more like caricatures and it’s a ploy that falls flat. Now McTiernan’s original film certainly didn’t have the most groundbreaking plot, but at least there was some form of cohesive story as opposed to Black’s that at times feels like a series of improvisational comedy sketches followed by sub-par CGI and brutal bloody action, granted some of this helped make for some solid laughs. This lack of focus, however, lent to a hyperactive pace that apparently had the film accelerating to 90 before it even began because when the film opens, it's bouncing around at full speed. However, as goofy and nonsensical of a movie The Predator is, it still manages to be somewhat fun through hysterical banter, character interactions and ridiculous action. By far the best scenes were when it was solely the team playing off of one another in a single room, seeing who could land the best verbal jabs with Thomas Jane and Keegan Michael Key stealing every moment. Boyd Holbrook proves a capable leading man, but there isn’t too much for him to sink his teeth in, same with Olivia Munn’s character. This is also probably the most charismatic we’ve ever seen Sterling K. Brown (not that there was any doubt in his abilities) as he couples quick one liners and great comedic timing with an arrogant government hot shot demeanor and before you go asking, yes, there’s an absolutely absurd ending that leaves the door open for the inevitable sequel that one can only hope will be more fulfilling than this live action version of adults playing romp-a-room.
A link to our video review below:
Toronto International Film Festival Review: The Predator
Production Companies: Twentieth Century Fox and David Entertainment
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Agusto Auguilera
Rated R, 107 Min
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