2018, R, 101 min. Directed by Shane Black. Starring Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 14, 2018
How do you reboot a sci-fi franchise that’s had more than a few false starts? How do you breathe life into a series whose first film is so beloved that the internet is still making memes and videos about it more than 30 years later? Well, in theory, you could do worse than hire up Shane Black to direct your next entry in the Predator series. After all, he played Hawkins in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger original and was the first soldier killed off, so he’s had a lot of time to mull it over. He also penned those Lethal Weapon movies, which many consider to be the ne plus ultra of Eighties buddy-cop films. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang resurrected his career in 2005, and 2016’s The Nice Guys pretty much cemented the fact that he knew what he was doing. So why not give Black a crack at a languishing property with potential?
Looks great on paper, right? And for a time, The Predator offers some popcorn thrills, grisly deaths, and funny one-liners. But the film tries entirely too hard to capture the magic of those Eighties action/comedy films that Black cut his teeth on that anything resembling a cohesive plot gets set aside for another endless round of bad jokes and running gags, which I’m quite sure is by design. It’s Black (with co-writer Fred Dekker) putting the pedal to the metal and never looking in the rearview mirror (perhaps something he should have done from time to time).
The story goes like this: A sniper in Mexico, Quinn (Holbrook), is witness to an alien ship crash landing as he’s trying to extract hostages from bad guys (pretty sure it was drug cartel related). He investigates the ship, the Predator has died, but that doesn’t stop him from fucking around with the dude’s armor and shipping it back home to his house before he gets extracted (standard operating procedure). Once back home, He gets thrown on a bus with a rogues’ gallery of potential Section 8 looneys, comprised of Rhodes, Key, Jane, Allen, and Aguilera. They all have their special quirks, running the gamut from Tourette's syndrome to casually suicidal. Meanwhile, Quinn’s son Rory (Tremblay) opens up his dad’s mail and discovers the armor, and starts mucking about with it, because the film has made it clear over and over that he is a genius. Also meanwhile, evolutionary biologist Casey (Munn) is called in to check out that dead Predator, who's not dead, and she chases him (I’m assuming it’s a dude, no offense) and runs into our ragtag group of crazy soldiers, so then they try to go save Quinn’s son, who inadvertently set off some sort of beacon so another Predator can come kill him.
With me so far? Good, because I’m stopping right there, and I haven’t even mentioned the space dogs and some sort of Predator resistance back on the home planet and all the cute throwbacks to previous films (an update on the “gefaran thee to the whirlybird!” is particularly groan-inducing). Look, if you turn off your brain and just let the succession of images wash over you, the film can be dumb fun, just don’t go looking for anything remotely resembling comprehensibility. That apparently does not exist in the Predator universe.