Shane Black’s The Predator

So.. Shane Black’s The Predator. Haters gonna hate I suppose, but I really don’t get the negativity thrown this one’s way, it’s a shit ton of fun. Admittedly a stark departure from any other film in the franchise, Black’s signature is to brand things with an irreverent comedic stamp, and they should have realized that when they handed over the torch to him. This is Predator in American suburbia, a much smaller film than those before, but no less gory, imaginative or propulsive, and certainly nowhere close to as disappointing as I’ve read in some of these hilarious reviews. After a jungle set opening that mirrors John McTiernan’s original classic both visually and musically, a device worn by one of the Predators gets accidentally mailed to the young son (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) of the military sniper (Boyd Holbrook, channeling 80’s Michael Biehn nicely) who managed to kill one of them, all hell breaks loose when the rest of the creatures come looking for it, and intergalactic war hits the home front. Holbrook is placed on a prison bus populated by the Loonies, disgraced ex soldiers with PTSD who serve as the perfect rogue unit to abscond with the bus and take on the aliens using guns, bad jokes, a constant stream of profanity and eccentric personalities. Elsewhere, Olivia Munn’s super scientist makes educated guesses about both the intentions and biology of the Predators, eventually joining forces with the Loonies. It’s madcap and almost has an adult Amblin vibe which actually works quite well. Scene stealer Sterling K. Brown makes an oddball villain as a snarky Fed with his own agenda, while Jake Busey slyly plays the son of his dad’s Uber Predator hunter from the 1990 sequel. Now, the Loonies are as off colour a bunch as you’d expect to see in a Shane Black flick, but for me their weird chemistry and crudeness worked. Keegan Michael Key is the coked up comic relief, a guy who punctuates every awkward silence with a severely raunchy joke, Alfie Allen is underwritten but present, Trevente Rhodes scores big as Nebraska Williams, a chain smoking ex CO who is the brains of the bunch. My favourite performance of the film is Thomas Jane cast way against type as Baxley, who suffers from Tourette’s except when the plot requires him to steadily hold a firearm. I’ve read a lot of people call his character insensitive and I’m not sure what they’re drawing from, I have a family member who has Tourette’s and Jane’s work here is one of the most realistic depictions I’ve seen on film, it’s probably just all the other comedic commotion around him that accents it. Alongside Jane, I really like Munn, who obviously doesn’t look the part of a brainy scientist but fully gets the vibe here and has a lot of fun with her role. The Predators themselves seem bigger, louder and more vicious than before, often seen in broad daylight, with nastier attitudes and, at one point, speaking in plain English albeit via translator. Their part of the story is definitely far fetched but has imagination and thought put into it. They’re less the hunters here (except for that eleven foot tall motherfucker) and more like space spies with their own private feud going on. This has obviously been a divisive film so far.. I’ve heard a buddy say that it’s ‘one of the worst movies he’s ever seen.’ I can’t imagine that’s anything but overzealous overkill, it’s not an instant classic or anything but it was bloody fun, entertaining stuff. Honestly, my only complaint? It wasn’t long enough. There are areas that feel patchy and I imagine that’s where this studio interference I keep hearing about took place, and although it doesn’t come close to ruining the movie, I’d really love to see a director’s cut from Black at some point. But what we got was a solid blast of a film from where I’m sat. I mean, you get a guy like Shane Black to make a Predator film, it’s not like this is some gun for hire, he’s his own specific artist and is going to make the thing his way. Studio cuts aside, he’s done a slam bang job here, an action horror comedy sci-fi hybrid that feels as retro as it should while injecting new life and flavour into the mythos. Call me crazy, I guess.

-Nate Hill

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