By Jack Dignan
The fact that we doubted a Shane Black Predator film is absolutely ludicrous. Black’s always-consistent filmography, which ranges to everything from Lethal Weapon to The Nice Guys to the divisive Iron Man 3, proves his knack for fast, quipy dialogue driven by strong characters in an action-packed plot that never fails to make for an entertaining film, aka the perfect resume for handling a Predator sequel. And yet we doubted him. We doubted his ability to make this film work, and oh, what fools we are. The Predator is the best film since the original, and we’d be fools to let another one of Black’s films fall under the radar.
Quinn (Boyd Holdbrook) has uncovered something big. While serving a mission in the army, a spaceship crash-lands in the jungle; unleashing a violent, crazed alien hunter I’m sure you know the name of. Quinn barely escapes with his life, forced on the run by a government that wishes to sweep this whole situation under the rug. But when an Ultimate Predator comes to Earth searching for its rogue accomplice, surviving this extraterrestrial encounter may prove somewhat complicated. Joining him in the cast are Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Sterling K. Brown and Jacob Tremblay.
The Predator is a film flung right out of the 80s, making the most of its grizzly R-rated premise and ramping the cheese all the way to the max. It’s a big, goofy, messy ride that, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to give a shit, and I’m all here for it. This thing gets straight into the action, opening with an extended space bound sequence that transitions to the real world and brings with it all the thrills and kills I wanted from this film. Black and his co-writer Fred Dekker, reuniting for the first time since 1987’s The Monster Squad, go all out with the lunacy of a film like this, harkening back to the original classic while embracing all that came after it, and it’s one wild ride to watch unfold.
Not only is it paced to perfection, utilizing each of its distinct characters in unique and memorable ways, giving each of them a moment to shine and a line that’ll be quoted for years, but also there’s a genuinely believable reason why these Predators are returning to Earth. That’s always been my biggest problem with extravagant sci-fi films like this. You set up a massive universe with thousands of species spread across even more planets, yet all the excitement keeps happening on Earth. With The Predator, there’s a believable and genuine reason as to why, and it’s not always what you’d think based on previous installments. What this leads to is a hell of a good time.
Never have you seen a more fierce, blood thirsty or funny incarnation of the titular character. Some moments of humour revolving around the character do feel a little out of place, but I can’t deny my laughter. When it gets back to kicking ass and removing spines, however, that’s when this film is at its best. The Predator-hounds fail to impress, and the Ultimate Predator doesn’t feel nearly as interesting as the story revolving around the regular one, but so much of this works. A slaughter at a lab is especially fun, and it also sees the first time these characters get to work together, and, some outdated 80s stereotypes aside, I loved every single one of them. MVPs include Rhodes, Key, Jane and Brown.
Where this film falters big time is when it gets the third act. Extensive reshoots apparently saved it from being a total disaster, but what we get is still far from great. The primary plot element they utilise feels very tacked on, with character deaths often unnecessary and happening for the sake of killing off characters. There are moments of fun, and Black’s signature humour (which is in full effect for the entirely of this movie) always lands, but it feels like it derived from an entirely different movie, and hey, the subpar CGI hints that maybe it was. But still, even though it doesn’t quite stick the landing, I had an absolute ball with this film, and it’s definitely 100% not influenced by the fact that I sat across the aisle from Olivia Munn at the TIFF World Premiere.
3 1/2 Stars
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