VOD film review: The Predator
James R | On 13, Mar 2019
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay
How on Earth do you bring one of the definitive sci-fi horrors of the 80s into the modern age? Predators gave us that answer, with a sequel balancing action and a star-studded cast with inventive creature design. The Predator, 2018’s latest entry in the franchise, attempts the same thing to far less success.
Black’s take on the series finds room to nod to Robert Rodriguez’s thriller as well the earlier entries, as it drops into the middle of Mexico, where US sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is on a mercenary mission. That’s interrupted by an alien ship crash-landing, prompting the resourceful McKenna to ransack the site – and find himself in possession of some swish alien tech. That tech, he decides, needs to be kept safe, and so he ships it in the post to his son, Rory (Jacob Tremblsy), who’s living with his estranged wife (Yvonne Strahovski).
Rory, it turns out, has Asperger’s, and is a whizz with mechanics and computing – and so he wastes no time tinkering with the Predator gear, hacking bits, deciphering others and accidentally activating a beacon that brings another monster running. Quinn therefore rounds up a motley crew of military veterans (Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Alfie Allen) to step in and save the day.
If that sounds like a lot of lot to squeeze into two hours, that’s because it is: The Predator is a cut-and-shut job of three or four different plots and moods, each one clashing with the other. There’s wisecracking, gun-toting comedy, gruff, honest-hearted drama about a dad trying to rescue his family and redeem himself, gory monster movie violence, and some science fiction world-building, courtesy of government biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn). And that’s before you even consider the entirely unbelievable decision of Quinn to pop some lethal extraterrestrial gadgetry in the post in the first place.
That bizarre plot hole aside (and an equally illogical set piece in a laboratory), Black’s individual components aren’t terrible, by any means: the soldiers’ banter is delivered with enjoyably foul-mouthed enthusiasm, Tremblay sells his smart son role with enough sincerity to avoid mere autism stereotyping, while the action sequences have some nifty uses and subversions of signature Predator moves. But it’s all too much and too fast, hyperactively jumping between tones and characters without letting any of them land properly. Halfway through, someone notes that these creatures aren’t predators at all, that they’re hunting not for survival but for sport. It’s hard not to think The Predator’s script suffers from similar misunderstandings.