‘The Predator’ Review: The Chopper Left A Long Time Ago

A new predator crash lands on earth, interrupting a covert mission and severely irritating Army Ranger Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook). He is quickly deemed insane and interred with other soldiers experiencing mental health issues, but not before smuggling some alien gear out to his autistic son. Now they are all targets of a bigger, even more brutal predator.

Unusually for a Shane Black film very little time is spent on character dynamics. His signature fast talking, quip-heavy dialogue serves as a barrier to characterisation here. Everyone is whipsmart and cool as ice, with varying degrees of conviction, making the characters largely interchangeable. This is perhaps most obvious with Olivia Munn’s Casey Bracket, a scientist who finds herself on the run and out of her depth, in theory. In reality she’s a combat trained action woman who always has a cool line and a casual attitude to violence. The Wikipedia cast list describes her as a science teacher. I must have missed that line. At the end of the film, McKenna reminisces about his squad of misfits and says “these are the ones no one will remember”. He was right.

Jacob Tremblay is, of course, entirely natural as the young son of McKenna, but the pair have very few moments together and his autism is only ever a plot device within the film. Rest assured that it will not impede his abilities to deliver one liners to frightening strangers. Disability in general is a recurring motif of the film. Most of the characters have some form of mental health issue, and often this aids characters in fighting against the alien.

With a little more development this could have been a theme. The Predator and its race only value physical strength and cunning. Perhaps they undervalue qualities such as compassion and intelligence, ultimately leading to its downfall! Or our heroes could just blow it up.  It is also a little difficult to fully appreciate the reframing of mental illness as the next stage of human evolution when a character experiencing Tourette’s is used purely as comedic relief.

One of the key selling points of the film is its commitment to violence and gore. There is certainly some viscera, albeit computer generated and difficult to see. Whereas the original Predator eked out it’s character deaths throughout its run time, all main character deaths in The Predator occur in the final confrontation. This means that for all of its gore, the action scenes are mostly toothless. There’s little sense of jeopardy.

The editing in the film is poor, especially in action sequences. The film fails to establish the layout of the environments and where characters are in relation to each other. Action sequences are therefore disorientating and tiresome. There’s no visual flair or style to enliven the dark, generic world this predator inhabits.

Tribute is paid to the original film with some familiar lines and props. There’s a particularly fun variation on “chopper” line. But there’s nothing that made the original a cult classic here. There’s no time for tension, the action is too frenetic and hard to follow, the characters are uninteresting and the gore is artificial and meaningless.

Predator has some laughs and some gory moments that will please some audiences, but a huge number of elements are introduced and under-utilised. Shane Black’s films are usually unpredictable, funny and thrilling. This has been true as recently as The Nice Guys and has worked on a large scale in Iron Man 3. With The Predator he fails to infuse a tired and dreary blockbuster with any life.

Two Stars

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