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The Predator - Review

The Predator

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT’S difficult to think of a film that frustrates and entertains as much as Shane Black’s take on the Predator franchise.

On the one hand, it’s a gung-ho thrill-ride that sprays blood and body parts as fast as zippy one-liners. But on the other, it lacks the nuance of the writer-director’s best work (from The Nice Guys to Iron Man 3), forgoing character and smartness in favour of increasingly nonsensical mayhem.

The result, while enjoyable enough, also feels like a missed opportunity, especially given that its come from a veteran of the franchise (Black starred in the original Predator as the ill-fated Hawkins).

Belatedly following on from the events of the cult classic Predator and its urban sequel Predator 2 (and thankfully ignoring the Predator/Alien hybrids), the film picks up mid-pursuit between two Predator space-ships.

When one crashes to Earth, it encounters a sniper, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), and promptly loses its helmet and arm-band (aka quick-firing device and tracker), before also being caught by a black ops government organisation known as Project Stargazer (led by the hissably bad-ass Sterling K. Brown’s Traeger).

While McKenna mails his contraband home, and inadvertently into the arms of his autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), Traeger sets about experimenting. But things, somewhat predictably, go wrong and it’s not long before The Predator has escaped (keen to be reunited with his equipment), a second Predator turns up on his trail, and McKenna (complete with rag-tag bunch of ‘Loonies’ comrades) and Traeger converge on Rory’s home for one big, violent encounter.

Given his history with the Predator movies, and his track record for creating memorable characters (he created Martin Riggs, for example), it would have been reasonable to expect a higher quality revival for this franchise than Black has ultimately managed.

But while not short on quips, inventive deaths, knowing references to the original (in particular) and some smart exchanges and set pieces, there’s also a lot that seems to be missing.

If anything, Black’s cavalier approach comes at the expense of the things that made the original Predator so memorable in the first place: such as suspense and character. With the exception of Holbrook (who imbues his Quinn with the right slice of cool), Olivia Munn (as a kick-ass scientist) and Tremblay (taking things seriously to endearing effect), none of Black’s remaining ensemble really get the screen-time they deserve to shine.

While the lack of any real build up deprives the film of any tension or mystery. The emergence of a new Predator feels rushed and under-explained… and thereby exhibits all of the worst elements of sequel filmmaking (bigger isn’t necessarily better).

While this is also evident in the way that Black squanders any potential posed by having the bigger Predator arrive with attack dogs. It’s a good idea that gets wasted.

On the human front, his Loonies seem to exist merely to hurl insults at each other (some of it unnecessarily sexist and profane), while his villains are mere alien fodder to get splatted in innumerable ways (Brown is particularly wasted).

But while the decision to go full-on with the gore is commendable at a time when a lot of franchises are looking to soften things up to attract younger audiences, there is a casual disregard for anything resembling human life – something that, again, the original Predator managed to maintain (you cared about who lived or died in 1987).

Hence, as entertaining as elements of the film most certainly are, Black fails to mask its many faults, no matter how hard and fast he drives the narrative. Rather, the longer the mayhem continues, the more glaring the faults become, right down to a lacklustre finale that feels both rushed and poorly conceived. Quite frankly, there’s not a lot that makes sense.

Black, as his CV illustrates, is capable of much, much better. But if you’re willing to stick your brain in neutral and enter into the stupidity of it all, The Predator is diverting enough in a trashy, instantly forgettable way.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 50mins
UK Release Date: September 12, 2018