Updated: Feb 7, 2020
In 1987, at the height of his butt-kicking action hero powers, Arnold Schwarzenegger made Predator, one of the manliest movies of all-time. It is about a group of paramilitaries who go into a Central American jungle to battle an alien that likes to hunt and pick off its prey one-by-one and it was pretty awesome. It was followed by two sequels (1990’s Predator 2 and 2010’s Predators) as well as two spin-offs (2004’s Alien vs. Predator and 2007’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), none of which were as successful or well-received as the original.
Now, eight years after the last entry in the series, comes The Predator, about a group of disgraced mercenaries battling one of the creatures in a small American town. It is a big, dumb action movie with paper thin characters and a story that tries to capture the tone of the original and generally fails. Some of the action is good, but absolutely nothing else works on anything even approaching a consistent basis.
The plot, such as it is, sees another predator crash land on Earth where it ends up fighting the soldiers and some corporate scientists. As is always the case in these kinds of stories, corporate equals bad. Their leader, Traeger, wants the alien for, um, something? To be honest, I did not totally understand what he was trying to accomplish or why he wanted to kill the heroes. Maybe I missed it or maybe they just forgot to write the conspiracy. That is one of the aspects of The Predator that seems heavily edited. Basically everything involving character or story feels like it was significantly shortened or completely jettisoned in post-production. That makes it baffling in addition to stupid. The result is action without logic.
I did not expect a character study, though I certainly hoped they would be interesting enough that I would want to see them survive. Sadly, it is the opposite. I strongly disliked all of them, except for Olivia Munn’s scientist who has the only moments of cleverness (vulgarity is mistaken for humor far too much). Of course, since this is a guy’s movie, she is just the spunky sidekick instead of a full-fledged hero. If that means she is not an obnoxious cliché, then I suppose it is for the best.
All of the mercenaries, plus Sterling K. Brown’s egotistical Traeger, are doofuses with a single trait. McKenna, the lead (played by bland Boyd Holbrook), is the anti-authority hero. Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes) becomes his wisecracking friend. Coyle, the painfully unfunny comic relief, is played by comedian Keegan-Michael Key. Thomas Jane is PTSD-addled Baxley. Then there is the lonely Nettles (Augusto Aguilera) and Lynch (Alfie Allen), who does magic before the movie does its own magic trick by making him disappear without explanation. The other major character is McKenna’s autistic son, Rory. Unsurprisingly, the screenplay has no real idea of what to do with him besides lazily putting him in danger at least three times to set up its action scenes.
The Predator (100 minutes, minus the end credits) is a waste of a good cast and a promising concept. There is no reason this story could not be turned into an entertaining sci-fi thriller. Unfortunately, this is definitely not it. It is decent action used in the service of a dull retread. The ending teases a sequel but, if it is going to be anything like this movie, I hope that idea gets disemboweled by a predator before it ever sees the light of day.
1¼ out of 5
Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna
Olivia Munn as Casey Bracket
Jacob Tremblay as Rory McKenna
Trevante Rhodes as Nebraska Williams
Keegan-Michael Key as Coyle
Thomas Jane as Baxley
Sterling K. Brown as Traeger
Augusto Aguilera as Nettles
Alfie Allen as Lynch
Directed by Shane Black
Screenplay by Fred Dekker and Shane Black