Title: The Predator
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
SIDESHOW MEL: He's gone from predator to partier!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Alien antagonist assaults Army associates, acts anomalously.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 sexual Tyrannosauruses out of 5.
Tagline: "You'll never see him coming."
Better Tagline: ...nope. Not touching that one.
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is labeled insane after a deadly close encounter with an alien, and is subsequently scheduled for "reprogramming" with six other military head cases. That plan is interrupted by the awakening of McKenna's extraterrestrial chum — a Predator — on a secret army base, followed by the arrival of another, larger Predator who's hunting the first. This dirty (half) dozen join forces with a shanghaied biologist (Olivia Munn) to recover alien equipment McKenna shipped to a PO box but ended up in the hands of his young son Rory (Jacob Tremblay). Oops.
"Critical" Analysis: Shane Black, writer/director of The Predator, clearly wants his newest effort to be a throwback to its irreverent, gore-spattered late '80s/early '90s forebears. Black appeared (as Hawkins) in the first movie, after all, and this film, like much of his previous work, embodies that era of film, with all the raunchiness and occasional spine-removing that entails.
In that sense, it's very much in the spirit of the original (and perhaps slightly less nasty than Predator 2), with the script including callbacks and references to both (the "get to the choppah" shout-out is especially inspired). But whether or not that's a good thing depends on the viewer's fondness for attitudes and dialogue one could charitably describe as "anachronistic."
The group led by McKenna in The Predator represent a different dynamic than that put forth in the earliest movies, in that they're thrown together instead of starting off as a team like Dutch's squad or Harrigan's unit. And as if to better reflect the negative impacts of 17 years of war, they're all...touched in some way. Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) makes inappropriate jokes to mask past trauma, for example, while "Nebraska" (Trevante Rhodes) was unsuccessful in a suicide attempt.
These aren't exactly the tobacco chewing, dry shaving Stoics of old, and the troubled pasts make sense as Black tries to reconcile classic machismo with present day introspection. Unfortunately, these attempts are pretty hit and miss. Indeed, saying The Predator is "problematic" feels like underselling the term, and that's without even bringing up how Black hired an actual (sexual) predator buddy for a bit part that was ultimately cut from the movie after Munn found out and complained.
Another big miss is the decision to place Rory on the autistic spectrum and give him the Accountant-like superpower of being able to master Predator technology. Black even has Munn's character spout some horseshit about how autistic people "maybe aren't really disabled." Then again, this is a movie about beefy aliens hunting humans for sport (and other spoilery reasons), so that fits in with the rest of the movie's bullshit science.
But if you can look past the jokes about a character's mother fellating a homeless guy and the Dr. Oz-like quackery, there's enjoyment to be had. The action is pretty terrific (minus the obligatory CGI blood) and the banter is top notch, especially between frenemies Coyle and the Tourette's-afflicted(!) Baxley (Thomas Jane). And then there's Sterling K. Brown, who clearly enjoys playing the treacherous government operative Traeger.
As the sole female lead (Yvonne Strahovski has a small but spirited supporting role as Rory's mother), Munn gives as good as she gets, and Black wisely eschews any romantic entanglements between Bracket and McKenna. None of it is enough to convince anyone this iteration of the franchise was absolutely necessary, but The Predator has a nice throwback feel that helps outweigh some of its flaws.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.