STARRING: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey, Niall Matter and Brian A. Prince
When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.
An Army Ranger sniper named Quinn McKenna comes into contact with a Predator when its ship crash lands on Earth. As the Predator takes out his team before he manages to knock it out, Quinn ships off part of its armour as evidence while the Government take him in for questioning about what he see/did not see. As a government team, led by agent Will Traeger, hold the Predator for examination, McKenna’s son Rory triggers a signal in the armour leading to a greater threat coming to Earth as Quinn is put on a bus with a group of other government captives.
For better or worse, Shane Black’s The Predator is tonally different from the original and its sequels, going for a mostly comedic vibe embraced within the action-thriller surroundings, giving it a different flavour from its predecessor’s. I will say that I liked the team dynamic when it came to the action sequences against the Predator and particularly the sequence involving the Predator’s dogs in the football field as well as their rapport as a dysfunctional ‘unit’. Visually the Predator design is still striking and for the most part, I liked the battle sequences involving some very graphic kills from the alien. In terms of performances, I actually liked Boyd Holbrook and Trevante Rhodes as Quinn and Nebraska, particularly their interactions with one another during the quieter moments as we get to know more of their characters, fleshing them out and for the kind of role he’s playing, Sterling K. Brown is fine as Will Traeger.
The problem with The Predator is that it tries to throw a lot of ideas into the mix….and I mean a lot. It almost feels like Shane Black had an idea of how he was going to make this film (that acts as a sequel to the first two Predator films), merge the locations of its predecessors (opening act jungle, rest of the film the city) and try and trend new ground to move the Predator franchise forward….and then the studio gave him multiple things to add on and Black at some point just goes ‘You want all that in there? Fine! There it is’. It’s a colossal mess of tonal shifts, there’s no real sense of dread that previous Predator films carried (bar one sequence set in the laboratory) and there’s several plot holes that one can’t shake even a few days after watching the film. The idea of Predator dogs in theory makes sense, after what’s a hunter without his dogs, but even that is turned into comedic value at one point and that gag itself itself literally runs through the rest of the film. While I enjoyed the interaction of the team together as an ensemble, outside of McKenna and Nebraska, the rest ranged from tolerable yet forgettable to memorable but downright annoying. Case in point Keegan-Michael Key. Great comedian, but he’s got a character that is one-note ‘crazy’ and sweet lucifer’s soul patch he is absolutely irritating as hell as Coyle. Thomas Jane will appear ‘wacky’ to the audience (as some did at my screening) as his Tourettes caused by PSTD is played for laughs and at one point disappears when in combat, it could have been a more impactful, memorable moment if his condition was developed further along with his character, but the film moves at such a high-speed pace that there’s not enough room for the characters to breathe as we get to the next set piece. Olivia Munn’s character Dr. Casey Bracket is thinly written, a biologist that is brought in to examine the Predator and joins ‘The Loonies’. Jacob Tremblay plays Quinn’s son Rory, who is autistic and its his arc in particular that will divide your opinion of the film. There’s moments here where particular weight could have been added but they go for the comedic reaction after, such as one certain character accidentally kills someone, first time they’ve killed somebody….and dramatic heaviness to it, just something happens and its to make the audience laugh but for me it didn’t work at all.
The Predator is a weird hybrid of trying to maintain the legacy of the first two Predator films, while create new ground to move the franchise forward and yet the final cut feels like there’s studio interference all over it as a Shane Black film, it’s without doubt his most incoherent film to date and as a standalone Predator film, it’s definitely the weakest of the bunch. If you go in expecting something in the vein of the first two Predator films, you’re going to have a hard time digesting what this film is giving you, but if you’re going in looking for a more tongue-in-cheek sci-fi film that without doubt doesn’t take itself seriously, then you might enjoy it. 4/10