September 11, 2018

CINEMA | Shane Black Hunts 'The Predator'

Olivia Munn Shane Black | The Predator

Irreverent filmmaker Shane Black, who had a small role in the original film, restarts the Predator franchise with his trademark wit and buddy comedy chops. Black uses all his verve and reverence for '80s style action to make The Predator a mostly fun and cartoonishly violent, but dumb as rocks, thrill ride.

Boyd Holbrook stars as an elite sniper who happens upon a rogue Predator alien—more of a sports huntsman, actually—then is promptly marked as expendable to prevent what he witnessed from getting out. Holbrook quickly joins a disavowed group of mentally unstable ex-soldiers ("The Loonies") in the likes of Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera.

It's a ramshackle group that's charming enough with the usual riffs and rapid-fire dirty jokes. Trevante, in particular, shows his effortlessly cool demeanour as a conflicted, but ultimately honourable, hero. However, the abundance of off-colour jokes and various ticks each personality is assigned don't exactly work in the inconsistently paced feature.

Other standouts include Olivia Munn, who really proves she's the real deal, with a very physical star presence as a biologist recruited by the government. A never-not-smiling Sterling K. Brown revels in getting to be the bad guy who covers up the Predator's tracks. They are two of the more successful performances at balancing the erratic humour and violence.

Shane Black | The Predator

Child actor Jacob Tremblay as Holbrook's autistic young son is used as an unfortunate device to bridge our understanding of the lethal alien creatures, their technology, and motives on Earth. Black's version of being on the "spectrum" as well as his treatment of mental illness, PTSD, and such is rather blunt. These complex subjects are uncomfortably shoehorned into the film with base-level ideas of intergalactic politics, climate change, genetic evolution, and government cover-ups also brought up.

Written by Black and his Monster Squad cohort Fred Dekker, the bare script really compacts a dizzying amount of exposition and senseless information into less than two hours. The film starts immediately with the Predator landing on Earth and setting off a quick chain of events. Inevitably, there are a healthy amount seemingly smart people making very dumb decisions and getting killed in gruesome fashion just as the unnamed shadowy government organization overseeing the alien retrieval seems to kill witnesses with absolutely no regard for anything.

The Predator is far from a crackling action feature with some choppy editing and a messily put together final act that devolves into clunky franchise building. However, it's undeniably fun and thrilling with an all-star cast of troublemakers who clearly had a good time. Despite the contemporary filmmaking style, this loose sequel feels very much in line with its peak '80-90s action roots while turning the series into a full-blown comedy.


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