The Movie Guru: ‘The Predator’ bloody and surprisingly funny
September 14, 2018
A "Predator" movie is never going to be high art; because it's not trying to be.
Generally, the only requirements for a movie in this increasingly long series is whether there's enough blood and how well the audience is entertained. Writer/director Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker have decided to be even more ambitious for "The Predator," squeezing in character development, plenty of humor, and something close to a larger story arc. Though the resulting movie sometimes comes off as an uneasy fit, it's entertaining enough to make the time pass quickly.
The movie drops audiences right into the tail end of a space battle, where the only thing we know is a Predator is driving one of the ships. It immediately crash-lands on Earth, interrupting a military operation and causing a human to get his hands on Predator tech. Another Predator immediately shows up and violently kills most of the participants, leaving the surviving human (the one with the tech, naturally) to flee. There's also a shady government group who strip-mines the ship and immediately arrest the soldier who survived.
And that's just the first 10 minutes or so.
The action is just as relentless as it is in the original duo of "Predator" movies, with barely a moment to breathe from the opening until the credits roll. Pretty much everyone is carrying a big gun, and there are some gory slices and even an explosion or two. There's also at least as much blood spatter as your average horror movie, and at least one scene where internal organs are given enough attention it might turn your stomach a little.
Unlike previous "Predator" movies, however, Black tries for a cast of characters more like one of his buddy comedies. The cast does a good job of making several of the characters memorable, enough to make me want to hear even more about them. One bromance in particular, between Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Jane, definitely deserved more time.
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What extra time there is, however, is mostly devoted to squeezing in laughs. The movie is surprisingly hilarious, in a dark, foul-mouthed kind of way, with a surprisingly good sense of comic timing. There's also a running joke about how the Predators are really more sport hunters than predators, which is clearly a long-standing pet peeve of Black and/or Dekker.
There's also a larger storyline squeezed into the middle of all this, an extension and explanation of the idea that Predators go around hunting the best of each species. It's more of a sequel hook than an actual plot, though it does deserve credit for having some real-world relevance.
Together, it's almost too much for one movie. The character moments seem slightly off-key with the relentless violence, as if there were actually two different movies trying to share the same space. They're both entertaining, if this is the kind of thing you're into, but neither feels fully fleshed out.
Still, it counts as a win for the serious. After all, this is a "Predator" sequel we're taking about.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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