To be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I heard about this movie, it seems to be the Hollywood norm at the minute to take an established franchise and either reboot it or make a quasi-sequel. Either way for the most part they aren’t great (cough) Robocop 2014, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator Genisys (cough), you get my point. So believe me when I say I certainly wasn’t expecting to see one of the best action movies I’ve seen in years and possibly the best Predator movie of the franchise.
The story kicks off with Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) an Army Ranger on a mission to oversee a hostage exchange. But just as the exchange is about to happen, wouldn’t you know it an alien spaceship crash lands nearby interrupting the operation, bloody typical. Well obviously McKenna can’t not abandon his post and runs off to investigate, which he does, leaving the hostages to their fate. He then proceeds to loot the ship until the Predator shows up, whom quite understandably would prefer he not do that. The Predator, not being from earth and struggling with the language barrier, communicates this the only way he knows how, by killing, disembowelling and hanging a dude from a tree, better than any passive aggressive posted note.(“Don’t touch my milk!”)
After a brief scuffle McKenna uses the Predator’s own weapon to knock him unconscious and escape with all the alien goodies he can carry, knowing that he will need proof. Although I’m not sure why, because literally every person he meets either already knows about Predators or is fully prepared to believe him without any proof. Skip ahead a few days and McKenna is arrested and taken to a black site to be used as a scapegoat, again I’m not sure why because he is the only survivor and there doesn’t seem to be any witnesses. He is promptly designated unfit and stuffed on a bus full of other military prisoners or “The Loonies” as they liked to be called. Well to go into the plot any further would lead us right into spoiler town, and we don’t want that, so instead let’s talk about whether or not it’s good, it is but I assume you want more than that.
Let’s talk about the characters for starters, specifically “The Loonies”. Each of them were fun and engaging, with their own personalities, quirks and backstories but rather than bombarding the viewer with all of it at once the director (Shane Black) slowly parcels it out over the course of the movie. This gives the audience ample opportunity to get to know and invest in each of the characters, allowing them to become more than mere Predator fodder. While each character is great in their own right, the cast’s chemistry elevates it to something truly magnificent. In particular the relationship between McKenna (Holbrook) and Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes), it was a classic 80’s “buddy cop” partnership ala Riggs and Murtaugh.
But our heroes are only as good as their villain and they have a great one, no not the one from space, this one is much closer to home, the wonderfully villainous Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown). Traeger is the agent who arrests McKenna, while barely containing his excitement at the possibility of fighting aliens. Traeger as the villain is one of my favourite things about the movie, but also my only source of criticism. Let me explain, he is a fantastic villain, is single minded, cut-throat, cruel and he goes out of his way to be an ass to everyone. But by deliberately antagonising people for no reason and always skipping straight to the most extreme measure, in some cases even when people are offering to help him makes him stupid, it actively works against his own interests.(“I’ve burned all my supplies, now no-one can take them from me!”)
I also want to say a big thank you to whoever made the decision to use both practical effects and C.G.I, I’m sure there was more than one interfering bastard over at Fox that tried to get them to use only C.G.I to cut costs. There’s no real way to say this without sounding like a “things were better back in my day” wanker, but there is something to be said for great practical effects. And this movie has them, puppeteering, fake blood and controlled explosions; it gave the whole experience a wonderful sense of life.
But I think what I enjoyed most about this movie was that it was fun; it was filled with dark humour, stupid jokes and had a ridiculous premise. Most movies these days, particularly action movies tend to be a po faced, sombre affair about war or revenge. Hell, even the modern Predator movies have been a dark, edgy bore fest. Hollywood is so desperate to recreate the spark that made action movies so popular but fails to understand why they were so beloved. It’s because while they are ostensibly action movies, they are at their core, funny. Take the original Lethal Weapon, it’s about a suicidal war veteran who has lost his wife and all reason to live taking on drug dealers, but it still finds time for some humour.
With an entertaining fast paced plot, interesting characters and a whole lot of action The Predator manages to recapture that unabashed sense of fun that comes from watching a classic action movie. Take notes action movies, this is now the standard.