TL;DR – There is a lot of great production here, and strong acting, but it has clearly been hacked apart in the edit leaving a disjointed mess.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
The first Predator film was maybe the pinnacle of the 1980s macho-action film genre, I can remember watching it for the first time, probably far younger than I should. It was Arnie at his best hunting down an alien hunting people for sport and while there were sequels nothing ever captured the intensity of the first film. When I heard they were bring it back and giving it to Shane Black I had high hopes that at the very least it would be an interesting film … and then the last week happened and I can’t believe how disappointed I could be at such a promising director. Now the film is here and well, you can see the vision, but you can also see where the studio has taken a hatchet to it.
So to set the scene, we open in the stars as two ship battle it out, before one of them makes an emergency warp into Earth’s orbit, and crashes down into Mexico. Unfortunately for it, it landed right into the middle of a hostage exchange where Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) an Army Ranger sniper is there to take the gangsters out. The Predator (Brian A. Prince) kills all of Quinn’s team but Quinn is able to escape with some of its armour as a bargaining chip when it all hits the fan and he is blamed for it. At that moment Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) the head of the government taskforce dealing with the Predators called Stargazer arrives and the team captures the wounded Predator. Well to cut a story short, Quinn mails the gear home only for it to be sent to his son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) instead of a PO Box, the government brings in Dr Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) when they find human DNA in the Predator they have captured, oh and that ship that was chasing The Predator is here and it has come to hunt.
Now while the film has issues there is also a lot of things that it did get right and the first is the acting. Everyone is giving really interesting and nuanced performances and while I wouldn’t say they were all good, they were all at least interesting. Boyd Holbrook has been sitting on the periphery of action films for a while and is probably most notable to people from his turn as the bad guy in Logan (see review). However, here he shows that he has the charisma and talent to pull off the lead character in a film that has a lot going on. As well as this, Olivia Munn continues to show an amazing talent being easily comfortable in every role the film threw at her, from the action to the more comedic moments, and when she goes toe to toe with the rest of the cast. Also, Jacob Tremblay has to hold up a lot of the film on his shoulders and while I think the writing could have been a bit better, he does a fantastic job conveying a difficult character. Adding to this the visual and practical effects were really well done, I mean that opening shot is space was beautiful, and some real work has gone to making The Predator feel like a real character.
There are glimpses of a really good film, and there were some great action set pieces, the film suffers in the edit and suffers badly for it. In many occasions whether or not someone will like the editing of a film will come down to style. For some, any jump cut action edit is a deal breaker and that is fair because it is all subjective. However, what we have here with The Predator is not a problem with the editing style, but with the editing philosophy used in the film. It is clear that whole chunks of this film have been cut from the theatrical release, indeed, the film has been cut so badly the bones are showing and this leads to two major issues. The first is that the film is simply hard to follow at times, people jump all over the place, appear for no reason, and then leave until they pop up again. I had no idea at times which Predator was which and who was doing what which lead to a confusing mess at times.
But more problematically, what cutting it back to the bone means is that you lose all that contacting tissue that helps turn caricatures into real people. This means that you could see that the film wanted to do something interesting, commenting on how the military treats returning soldiers suffering from psychological problems created by conflict, or how the military treats women and civilians, Climate Change, or even commentary on how the Predators might actually share more in common with sports shooters than predators. However, the film has clearly lost everything needed to establish them as people rather than we get “this is the person with Tourette’s that we will make fun of because that is all we left in the final cut”. So we get a bunch of people that exist bascically to up the kill count in the final act. This actually creates a bit of a dilemma for me as a reviewer because I can see what they were doing and I can actually map out pretty much everything that has been cut out. However, I feel it is important to actually review what we get, and what we get is a disjointed mess of caricatures.
In the end, do we recommend The Predator? Unfortunately not. There are some good character moments, some good acting, and some great effects. However, none of that makes up from the disjoined mess of a final edit. Could there be a good film left in here in a Director’s Cut, maybe, but after Shane Black’s actions recently, I do really care to find out.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Predator
Directed by – Shane Black
Written by – Fred Dekker & Shane Black
Based on – Characters by Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Music by – Henry Jackman
Cinematography by – Larry Fong
Edited by – Harry B. Miller III & Billy Weber
Starring – Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Yvonne Strahovski, Jake Busey, Niall Matter & Brian A. Prince
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 18A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R