EXPECTATIONS: An acerbic, self-aware action comedy that just so happens to be a Predator film.
REVIEW: Shane Black is back! A brand-spanking new film by renowned action-maestro the man himself. For those who don’t know, Shane Black is responsible for writing cult-classic 80’s/90’s films like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Last Action Hero and The Monster Squad.
He knows his action films and all of its tropes. He made his directorial debut in 2005 in the neo-noir buddy comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an underrated gem that led Robert Downey Jr. to the role that got him back to stardom, Iron Man. And we got the underseen buddy-comedy The Nice Guys, which showed Ryan Gosling as a comedic force and put Australian actress Angourie Rice into the spotlight.
So when Black announced that he was going to make a new entry in the Predator franchise (in which he starred in the first film) with his collaborator Fred Dekker (whom he worked with on Monster Squad), people started to go ape.
Then the bad news started. With news reports of drastic reshoots of the third act due to test screenings all the way to the incredibly stupid decision of Black hiring his friend/actor Steven Wilder Striegel to star in his film, without disclosing to anyone that he was a registered sex offender, resulting with Olivia Munn telling 20th Century Fox, who then swiftly cut out his scene with Munn. And Striegel was hired more than once!
So with the up and down expectations, will the hard work from the cast and crew of The Predator shine through despite the bad baggage that it shoulders?
There are interstellar creatures called the Predators, who are hunters that travel from planet to planet to hunt. In this film, they are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from the top species of each planet.
When a boy (Jacob Tremblay) accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag motley crew of ex-soldiers (Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen) and an evolutionary biologist (Olivia Munn) can prevent the end of the human race.
Wow, I am in total amazement of how this film came out. When it was said at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival that The Predator was a gory R-rated version of Monster Squad, they were not kidding. The Predator is an absolute goof that will probably enrage purists, but thankfully like Monster Squad, it is an entertaining, yet sloppily told goof. But unfortunately like Monster Squad, it has all the same problems.
The story is told incredibly fast and the exposition and drama are all free of fat and trimmed to the bone (thanks to editors Harry B. Miller III and Billy Weber). Which is quite good because it gets to the point which is the Predators kill a huge amount of people and lots of blood, gore and offal spray all over the place. And on that red note, The Predator succeeds.
The action is well-shot, well-lensed (thanks to cinematographer Larry Fong) and is thankfully free of detrimental quick-cutting and shaky cam. And unlike the lighting in the prior entry, Alien VS Predator: Requiem, you can actually see what the hell is going on!
As for the story itself, the mythology and the story ideas (which will not be described in great detail) are so bonkers, that director Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker had to have treated all of it as a joke. There’s a scene in the film where Strahovski’s character provides a motivational speech (by going into detail on Holbrook’s character) for some of the characters due to their reticence. But Black and Dekker (Get it?) subvert the expectations of the audience, that it becomes funny.
And the entire cast and crew are all in on the joke. Even the musical score by Henry Jackman has orchestral cues that convey wonder and childlike joy, as if it was meant for a children’s adventure film. And children is the best way to describe all the characters (except Strahovski’s and Munn’s characters, who ground the film any time they can); in the way that they are all mischievous, rambunctious kids (they even call themselves The Loonies!).
Like all of the films that Black has written/directed, the characters are all acerbic and politically incorrect stereotypes (one’s autistic, one’s religious, one has PTSD, one has Tourette’s etc.) but all the actors gnash their way into their roles and they succeed, for the most part.
And then we get to the problems of The Predator. There were news reports of third act reshoots earlier this year and seeing the final product, it shows. The CGI/green-screen is quite sloppy, the action is dealt with so swiftly that it ends anti-climatically and some of the resolutions of the characters are left unknown due to the fact that Black never goes back to them. Hell, the swift pacing for the overall film may exhaust some due to the sheer amount of action involved.
The character stereotypes will definitely offend some due to the cartoony and inaccurate portrayals of characters with serious afflictions and some of the jokes do land with a loud thud due to repetition or just come from unlikable character traits (eg. the homophobia). And last but not least, the film is not scary in the slightest, as the stealthy moments like in the earlier Predator films are all gone and replaced with action, which will disappoint purists.
But considering that the prior films have been doing the same thing many times already with five entries (including the Alien VS Predator films), it makes sense that Black and Dekker would change the formula up a bit, but they only intermittently succeed. It’s quite fun if you can get into the silliness due to the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously, but unfortunately, the lack of seriousness is its own detriment.
This review can be also seen at IMPULSE GAMER. Visit the site by pressing the picture above.
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Sterling K. Brown, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski
Director: Shane Black
Screenwriters: Fred Dekker, Shane Black