Thirty-one years ago he died in the first Predator film, now Shane Black has written and directed the latest chapter in the intergalactic-sport-hunter franchise. Although technically the sixth film in the series, “The Predator” ignores the last 3 entries, two of which were AVP titles, and is instead a direct followup 1990’s “Predator 2”. Black blatantly has fun with the connections, including random references to the first two films, including casting Jake Busey to play the son of the character Gary Busey played in “Predator 2”. Is there more to this film than gleeful homages? Yes, most definitely, but it may not be what many are expecting.
A quick look over Shane Black‘s filmography is a reminder of what to expect. He revels in memorable, over-the-top characters who have the ability to survive increasingly ridiculous scenarios. His underrated “The Nice Guys” is a perfect example of this. “The Predator” is far less serious than its predecessors, a quality that will likely split the fan-base, but it allows for a much more fun experience. When mercenary sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) witnesses a Predator in action, a secret government agency locks him up with a group of other post-military loonies. Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes) shot a commanding officer in the head. Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) had a friendly fire incident that wiped out his team, and now tells jokes non-stop, constantly torturing the Tourette’s inflicted Baxley (Thomas Jane). Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) is a religious fanatic, and Lynch (Alfie Allen) has an affinity for explosives. In a ridiculous sequence of being in the wrong place at the right time, they cross paths with Civilian Xeno-DNA expert Casey Bracket(Olivia Munn). When a Predator goes AWOL only this Suicide Squad of misfits have what it takes to bring it down.
On the positive side, the humor and action rival each other in speed and accuracy. The amount of action set pieces in this film rival most blockbusters, but after a while, it begins to feel repetitious. Some are clearly meant to be homages to past sequences, but there are only so many times a person can watch a foggy forest/jungle hunt before becoming fatigued. While this is often punched up with some clever and unexpected developments, once the final, final, final hunt commences it feels forced. It’s as if someone demanded there be a 4th(?) act and all the remaining characters are shoe-horned into the last showdown. In an effort to keep the pace of the film up, and service ADHD audience members, the entire film plays a shell game with multiple MacGuffins. We need to stop this thing, no, we need to save this person, no we need to get this item, no we need to run away, oops, we need to chase. On a technical level, it succeeds, but from a story-telling aspect, it’s a complete mess. It doesn’t help that the entire plot is propelled forward by one coincidence after another. (Fun Drinking Game: Take a shot each time pure chance moves the story forward!)
Deciding if this movie is good or not depends a lot on what you expect from a Predator film. For those willing to put your brain on hold for just under two hours, it’s a damn fun little action romp. But even those who love it should be warned: The very last sequence in the movie is absolutely terrible. It feels like a post-credit scene but begins just prior to the credits, and is so shockingly misguided and stupid I nearly cut the film’s score in half. You have been warned!