3. Predator 2 (1990)
Directed by Stephen Hopkins.
Starring Danny Glover, Ruben Blades, Gary Busey, María Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton and Kevin Peter Hall.
Nobody could dare call Predator 2 a lazy sequel, with its ambitious shift to the concrete jungle of late-90s Los Angeles. Without the same tonal assurances of its predecessor, though, Stephen Hopkins delivers a wildly uneven, at times unbearably goofy follow-up to the action classic.
Though its release predated the L.A. riots by two years, it’s incredibly difficult not to view Predator 2‘s portrait of urban decay with those optics in mind. Hopkins’ direction may often be flat and uninteresting, but he at least creates a palpable hellhole aesthetic for the city, one which amusingly brings the Predator a-knocking.
Danny Glover may be no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but his more down-to-Earth appeal makes him an entertaining lead all the same, while a wise-cracking Bill Paxton, hard-ass Gary Busey and peak-popularity María Conchita Alonso bring plenty of added value to the table.
Unfortunately the movie’s tonal whiplash is extremely irritating, switch-footing from gruesomeness to cartoonish silliness on a dime. The infamous “Want some candy?” scene and the sequence where the Predator repairs itself in an old couple’s apartment feel wholly at odds with, say, the terrifyingly intense subway massacre and the memorable slaughterhouse battle.
It’s also fair to argue that Predator 2 may have demystified the titular creature a little too much, even if the final meeting between Harrigan (Glover) and the Predator army on-board their ship is a blast, punctuated by his ballsy challenge: “OK, who’s next?”
A bold attempt to expand its predecessor’s mythos, though fundamentally hamstrung by a schizophrenic tone and Hopkins’ dull direction.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
2. Predators (2010)
Directed by Nimród Antal.
Starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins and Laurence Fishburne.
Just as the soft-reboot craze was kicking off, Fox decided to fashion their own Predator “rebootquel”, and though Nimród Antal (Armored) was an oddly uninspired directorial choice, he ultimately did fine work in this stylish and well-cast if overly familiar follow-up.
Unlike the AvP films, the characters are both well-defined and interesting, such that the 40 minutes it takes for the Predators to show up isn’t much of an issue. The banter crackles with something approaching the fiery wit of the original – though the rape joke is embarrassingly bad – and the jungle locale feels distinct enough from the 1987 movie thanks to the creepy flora and fauna residing on the alien planet.
For everything it gets right though, Predators is ultimately too indebted to the original film, with an overabundance of cringe-worthy, on-the-nose throwaway nods, especially Adrien Brody’s utterance of, “Kill me, I’m right here! Come on!”
Credit to Brody where it’s due, though; his casting baffled many fans, yet he put in the leg-work and pulled off the gruff action hero just splendidly. Props to the script for also bothering to make him relatively harsh and unlikeable, while Alice Braga’s Isabelle ends up being the real heart and soul of the film.
Topher Grace’s late-day heel-turn is pretty unnecessary all things considered, and some of the “lesser” characters cling a little too eagerly to stereotypes, but this is certainly the best pairing of players and parts since the first film.
Given the solid universe-building on display here, it’s a shame Predators ended up being a fairly low-key one-off. Though too reverent of the original Predator, this is a respectable entry into the franchise regardless.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
1. Predator (1987)
Directed by John McTiernan.
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall, Richard Chaves and Elpidia Carrillo.
Was anything else ever going to take the number one spot? Of course not. Predator may tout a simple premise, yet John McTiernan’s direction is anything but. The first act has a patient, deliberate rhythm to it, with the titular entity not revealing itself until the end of act one, but the jungle itself is such an imposing, unsettling character that it’s hard to much care.
Though Predator certainly isn’t carried by its cast, they are a spectacular bunch, boasting the charisma of an oiled-up pro-wrestling roster – including actual wrestler Jessa “The Body” Ventura among them – as they rip through hysterical, howlingly un-PC dialogue.
It’d be so easy for the movie’s hyper-masculine heroes to seem like dated relics today, but the macho facade is clearly shot through with a cute sense of self-awareness. It also helps inform the psychology of the scenario and make the mid-film “turn” that much more compelling; these well-trained men are, for the first time in their careers and possibly their lives, facing off against something they can’t remotely comprehend. This is surely best exemplified by the now-legendary “deforestation” scene.
There’s also an unexpected depth of character development to savour; the men express palpable pain at losing their pals, resulting in a few surprisingly sombre, even affecting moments. When Mac (Bill Duke) says his farewells to Blaine (Ventura), whose heart was recently exploded out of his chest by the creature, it actually means something.
Though a card-carrying horror movie in every which way, most of the film unfolds in broad daylight, a bold move given its scarcely-veiled slasher film formula and the obvious mood a night-time setting can create. This is McTiernan’s way, though, slyly subverting conventions, as with the movie’s final, near-wordless 25-minute showdown between Arnie and the Predator.
Speaking of which, the movie’s many, gratuitous action sequences, from the opening mercenary raid onwards, are delightful and bolstered by some stupendously well-aged visual effects, not to forget an immortal Alan Silvestri score (which the series is still dining out on today).
Pure action cinema at its most efficient and charmingly unpretentious, Predator remains a lean masterpiece over three decades on.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.