The Predator Review
By Aaron Potter
When the action does kick in its brutal, creative, yet unfortunately too hard to discern. Like the titular creature itself, we should be basking in the glory of violence, not squinting to make it out in the darkness.
You’d think if anyone understood the basic underpinnings of what makes a decent Predator movie, it’d be Shane Black. Not only did he star in the 1987 original as wise-cracking joker Hawkins, but even made uncredited script edits during production before launching a career that would see him recognised as a pioneer of the action genre. Alas, the director renowned for his witty dialogue and misunderstood male characters takes the helm of a series reboot that sadly results in a mishmash of jumbled action and misplaced humour that’s not nearly as sharp as we’ve come to expect from the man who gave us Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, and The Nice Guys.
The Predator represents a concerted attempt to play with series expectations, and it’s in this way that you sense certain compromises were made. Boyd Holbrook’s Quinn McKenna heads up this outing’s team of military misfits who simultaneously feel like they’ve just walked out of a sitcom – each with their own quirk – and oddly find themselves capable of battling the galaxy’s fiercest and most well-equipped alien hunters.
Of all the cast members, Sterling K. Brown is the obvious highlight. Fresh off his brief stint at the beginning of Black Panther, he’s given much more material to chew on as Will Traeger, a special agent who’s been tracking Earth’s presence of predators for quite some time. Through him, we learn more about the predators’ purpose for coming here all the years, yet even that reason is noticeably contrived and undercooked. It’s emblematic of the messy narrative this movie sets on as a whole.
It’s heartening that when the action does kick in its brutal, creative, yet unfortunately too hard to discern due to the darkly lit setting. We’re not in the jungle here, no, not even the concrete one of Predator 2. The new film racks up the kill count higher than any other thanks to its populated small-town setting. However, as with AVP2: Requiem, it all happens too fast and suffers from being mostly set at night. Like the titular creature itself, we should be basking in the glory of violence, not squinting to make it out in the darkness.
Throw all this in with ham-fisted callbacks to previous movies (Get to the choppers” when looking at Harley Davidsons, really?!) and an epilogue scene that baits a sequel we’re unlikely to get, and you’re left with a series reboot that doesn’t reinvent the franchise as it does sully it. There’s some fun to be had with The Predator, but its uninspired nature makes doing it feel like pulling teeth. If Shane Black couldn’t revive Predator maybe it's best it stayed how Arnie left it, dead.