With a terrific filmmaker and rock solid cast attempting to revive the 31-year-old Predator series made famous by the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, the uninterestingly titled The Predator finds a group of rag-tag mercenaries trying to protect a small town from an invading group of Predators whilst on the run from a military cover-up.
Helmed by actor-turned-writer/director Shane Black and The Predator features an impressive ensemble cast with Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane and Sterling K. Brown all bringing big action and several laughs to instalment number four in the series. Despite all the hype and promise of an exciting new romp to reignite a popular franchise, it still wasn't enough to save a disappointing debacle which proves itself another victim of missed opportunity when it comes to breathing new life into eighties classics.
When Army sniper Quinn McKenna (Holbrook) unintentionally discovers the existence of the alien species known as the ‘Predators’ and sends evidence back home to prove his close encounter of the third kind, his young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers their return to Earth. With the universe’s most lethally skilled hunters now stronger, smarter and thirsty for blood having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species, a band of ex-soldier misfits and disgruntled biologist Casey Brackett (Munn) become our last line of defence as they put their lives on the line to defend the human race. Hot on their trail a military faction led by Agent Traeger (Brown) trying to capturing a live Predator for government use, the outer reaches of space come to the small-town streets of suburbia as the hunt evolves.
When you’ve got a truly gifted auteur in Shane Black (whose resume includes writer of Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and the incredibly good The Nice Guys), on paper this film should be the energetic burst of brilliant action-horror the trailers make it look.
Lacking the ingenuity to get it there and instead playing more like a deliberate half-assed attempt at peaking fan interest just enough to keep a once-thought retired franchise going until more sequels expand the story; the bad editing, inconsistent plot and evident missing scenes left on the cutting room floor tie down The Predator from being the film it had the potential to be.
Featuring an abundance of the things die-hard Predator fans will undoubtedly love such as the brutal attacking of their prey, use of invisibility and thermal imaging, there is enough on offer to bring a smile to your face as you sit and watch the blood and gore play out with clever referencing to the older films adding to the fun. With another group of vastly different personalities grouping together to defend our species providing great comedy and the likes of Key and Jane standing out with all the best moments as a pair of loveable sociopaths constantly at odds with each other, Brown’s turn as the movie’s villain is also quite brilliant.
When the few things work, they work well, but with the entire ending being reshot just a couple of months ago and still resulting in a messy finale that doesn’t really amount to anything, you’ll still be expecting more from your movie going experience as the sad reminder we live in a world full of unnecessary sequels, remakes and reboots that never capture the magic the original delivered starts to set in and you wonder why they even bothered.
Having also portrayed Rick Hawkins in the original Predator back when he was still acting, Black’s hands as both writer and director were the best of any to modernize the classic monster-in-the- jungle tale for new audiences, but without Arnie Schwarzenegger (who at one point was set to reprise his role) nor any iconic lines to match, The Predator is far from his best work and isn’t able to resonate with audiences in the way it should have. Ultimately fitting somewhere in between 1990’s Predator 2 and 2010’s Predators as the next best thing of three sequels thus far, had the ingredients to a winning formula been tweaked just a tad and the critically acclaimed cast given more exciting things to do, this ugly mother***** could have been a big bad beautiful action-adventure akin to the legendary original that kicked it all off.
The hunt may have evolved, but the movies sure haven’t.