Shane Black Is Back With a 4th (or 6th) Installment
Hollywood’s lather-rinse-repeat approach to filmmaking yields another subpar entry in the Predator franchise: joining 1987’s Predator, 1990’s Predator 2, and 2010’s Predators is numbingly monikered The Predator, a tedious action-horror lark that aims to be both rib-tickler and bone-cruncher.
Comic-Con purists will tut-tut the exclusion of expanded universe duds Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), fan-fellating IP crossover wet dreams that dangled the promise of an enriched monster mythology but instead delivered acid-bleeding, mandible-snapping cash-grabs. (So this iteration is either entry #4 or entry #6, depending on whose Reddit screed you believe.)
THE PREDATOR ★ (1/5 stars)
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Shane Black and Fred Dekker
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen
Running time: 107 min.
The dreadlocked Yautja species is at it again, sending beefcake young bloods out into the wilds of space on hunting expeditions that double as warrior rites of passage. This time, a spaceship crash-lands in the backwoods of Georgia, and the predator du jour tussles with a rag-tag crew that counts tweener Jacob Tremblay and unusually somber Olivia Munn among its otherwise testosterone-fueled sausage party of wisecracking broheims.
The kid’s a child genius who can apparently intuit how to use sophisticated alien technology; the chick is a bio professor who specializes in DNA hybridization; and the dudes are chest-thumping mercenaries who jibe each other with yo’ momma jokes that apparently double as sick burns. Mayhem ensues, with the hostile E.T.’s signature light-bending cloak technology and thermal imaging biomasks complementing a slew of updated intergalactic weaponry.
The first Predator stumbled into the pantheon of meathead ’80s classics because pre-Die Hard director John McTiernan gave the material a muscular intensity and playfully overwrought gravitas that matched his jacked-up cast (including two improbable future governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura).
Original cast member Shane Black is the writer and director this time around, one of those guys who says things like “This isn’t a film, it’s a movie” because he’s all about having a good time. (Maybe too good: Black cast one of his buddies in a minor role which 20th Century Fox hastily cut from the film weeks before its release once people found out the man was a registered sex offender.)
Black started his career as a wunderkind screenwriter who delivered lurid, sassy scripts like the 1987 buddy-cop classic Lethal Weapon. His career flamed out in the ’90s, but he remade himself in the new millennium as an auteur of lurid, sassy gems like 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 2016’s The Nice Guys. But the problem with a lurid, sassy Predator is that it continues the mistake of the other sequels: it’s not serious enough about the material. What makes McTiernan’s version so fun is its sweaty-palmed commitment to macho hysteria. Nothing is more sporting than hunting down emasculated iron-pumpers.