Shane Black’s ‘The Predator’ is not a good movie. It struggles with such basic film notions as tone, character development, structure, editing, pace, and sense. Although it really does not work on any level, despite all of its faults, the movie remains entertaining throughout. The reason why is because of the name at the top of this paragraph. Writer/director Shane Black (‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, ‘Iron Man 3’) is a distinctive macho voice who put his unique comedic/action stamp on ’80’s films like ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘The Last Boy Scout’.
On paper, the hiring of Black to take the reins of the stop-start ‘Predator’ franchise seemed promising. His history with it goes back to the 1987 original Schwarzenenegger-starring actioner, playing the wisecracking member of the mercenary team covertly sent into the Central American jungle to ostensibly start a CIA-led revolution, yet encountering their doom at the hands of the titular other-worldly hunter. Shane Black’s resume has its share of hits and misses, but his ability to juggle hard-hitting action with easy levity cannot be denied. The biggest surprise of the problematic ‘The Predator’ is that it leans so heavily into the comedic aspect without the primal gravitas of the original. Granted, the jokes flying around alternate between offensive and hilarious, but ‘The Predator’ generates more true guffaws than most comedies these days. It appears that Black, along with co-writer Fred Dekker (‘The Monster Squad’), thought that rather than populate the team opposing the creature with an eclectic mix of characters, the entire group would be wise-cracking lunatics – think a whole cavalcade of Mel Gibson’s Riggs’.
The movie opens by dropping the audience back into what appears to be the jungle/forest along with another covert operations team, this one led by Boyd Holbrook’s (‘Narcos’, ‘Logan’) McKenna. The scene is the opposite of subtle in introducing the now familiar looking dread-locked alien, who has crash-landed and takes out every member of McKenna’s team (a sequence of events that took most of the runtime of the original movie here occurs before they can even be introduced) in extremely violent, if somewhat inventive ways. The body count just increases from there as the Predator takes out scientists and military personnel alike as it breaks out of the laboratory where it is being ‘studied’. McKenna is able to stash (and inexplicably force a random bartender to mail) some of the weaponry back home, where it inadvertently ends up in the hands of his Asperger’s afflicted young son Rory, played unconvincingly by Jacob Trembley. Right off the bat, the forced narrative inexplicably moves from scene to scene, with no regards to logic nor organic character development.
‘The Predator’ is loaded with talent. In addition to the McKennas (including a completely wasted Yvonne Strahovski as Mrs.McKenna), this movie features Olivia Munn in a thankless ‘expert’ type role, Trevante Rhodes of ‘Moonlight’ fame, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, and Alfie Allen (the ‘Game of Thrones’ alum only has a handful of lines and zero purpose). While they all seem to be having fun as a thrust together band of psycho brothers (they meet on a bus transport to a military psychiatric ward), they never seem threatened or scared and decide way too quickly to risk their lives for their bland ‘leader’ Holbrook. Perhaps the only person who seems completely comfortable here is Sterling K. Brown, playing waaaaaay against type from his ‘This is Us’ role as Traeger, the amoral leader of the shadow government agency responsible for the alien monster. He makes some crazy choices here, likely orchestrated or at least influenced by Black, chewing gum and scenery every time he is in frame, even brandishing a pair of sunglasses in the middle of the night for absolutely no reason. His character is an unapologetic asshole with no scruples or ethics whatsoever, a metaphorical parallel for ‘The Predator’ as a whole . . .
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Fred Dekker & Shane Black
Running Time: 107 min.
* * (out of 4 stars) -OR- C