UK Release Date: 13th September 2018
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Shane Black
Writer: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen, Keegan-Michael Key, Yvonne Strahovski
Synopsis: After an altercation with an extra-terrestrial, a soldier conceals some alien tech by sending it to his family, placing them in grave danger when the creature’s fellow aliens come back for it.
When Predator came out in the 1980s, with Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s unique star power leading the charge, it very quickly entered the action canon in a golden age for the genre. It obviously became a franchise and ultimately crossed over with Alien for a pair of movies that nobody particularly liked. A while later, the inevitable reboot has now taken place and, in a neat gambit, the man at the helm this time is Shane Black, who was actually in the original movie. On paper, the pieces are in place and on the board. In practice, though, this is an even uglier beast than the titular extra-terrestrial.
Black has conjured a movie that is at once a throwback to the macho world of 1980s action and an attempt to produce a down-and-dirty modern blockbuster with enough four-letter words and arterial splatters to earn an R-rating in America and a 15 certificate over here. The macho group at the centre is led by McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), who is captured by shady military types after he has an encounter with a Predator. What the authorities don’t know is that McKenna has sent several stolen bits of alien tech to his wife (Yvonne Strahovski) and son (Jacob Tremblay). Soon, other Predators are closing in on his family, which thrusts McKenna into a shaky alliance with scientist Casey (Olivia Munn), while government agent Traeger (Sterling K Brown) tries to track them down.
This is a movie that deals almost solely in noise, blokey banter and an effort to just be bigger than what has come before. The Predators are now genetically enhancing themselves with DNA from the species and planets they conquer, which means that, Phantom Menace style, there’s always a bigger beast in this particular story. Criticisms of a potentially PG-13 take have seemingly been taken to heart because this is a movie full of swear words and chunks of bodily viscera. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to chew on.
The Predator positively revels in the excesses of its central characters – a ragtag bunch of soldiers known as Group Two (“the sequel to Group One, only stupider”) and packed with hideously stereotypical quirks. There’s the shrieking mad one, the strong but silent bruiser and the one with Tourettes – a joke that was over-played and offensive in the mid-noughties, let alone in the enlightened, tolerant times of 2018. The same level of distastefully outdated stereotype is applied to Tremblay’s character, who is on the autism spectrum. That just means you can memorise chess boards and work computers really well, right? By the time Olivia Munn’s sorely wasted character, who has a PhD, describes Asperger’s as the next stage of human evolution, it’s tough to understand why anyone would spout this nonsense.
Every moment of The Predator unfolds as if it’s taking place in the blokes’ changing room at a gym, with the stench of Lynx Africa almost palpably oozing out of the screen. These are geezers who love talking about their genitals and shooting stuff until it dies, which makes them pretty impossible to relate to or care about, despite some lazy attempts at creating emotional arcs. Boyd Holbrook’s lead, in particular, has an unpleasant habit of taking weapons from the hands of very able women, as if patting them on the head and affirming that the men will deal with the fighting.
The fighting itself is where the movie does find its groove. The violence has an energy and fizz to it that the rest of the film sorely lacks. It’s clear that The Predator is reaching for the vintage Shane Black of Lethal Weapon, and more recently The Nice Guys, but it falls considerably short of that and delivers a film that, while fitfully entertaining, is afflicted with a rather icky tone, intolerable characters and a handful of plot points that have no place in this time period.
Pop or Poop?
On paper, The Predator could have been alright. However, the combination of a misjudged tone and a troubled production has led to a movie that feels like a pretty grotesque hybrid of ideas. It lacks any sort of storytelling coherence and also marks the nadir of the ‘autism as superpower’ trope.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.