Growing up in a more sheltered environment, my first exposure to kick-ass, therapist-alarming violence was from one of the Turok games on my buddy's Gamecube. My parents thought we were playing jax or maybe Go Fish. The graphics were blocky, the controls as intuitive as the Icelandic language, and green blood squirted from every fleshy beasty you could aim a gun at. It was so alien to me, and pretty awesome.
Fast-forward 12 years, and now I have The Predator to scratch that itch, even if that itch probably shouldn't be there anymore. From writer and director Shane Black, this film is a semi-successor to the Predator franchise that sees Earth at the center of an intergalactic hunting trip. The Predators, themselves, are hyper-masculine aliens that look like a skinned Pomeranian and Killer Croc had a few too many cosmos at singles night and decided procreation was a better idea than going home and watching the news. When military sniper Quinn McKenna, played by Boyd Holbrook, stumbles upon a crashed ship of one of these Predators, the race is on to save humanity from the threat of bigger, beefier Predators. Assisted by a wily group of former soldiers and an evolutionary biologist, McKenna must fend off aliens and the government to save the world, and his family.
Shane Black aims for Spielberg vibes with his odd, R-rated The Predator, but can't help infecting most scenes with "Shane Black-ery". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the cinematic tone is decidedly 80s, with cinematography and a score that wax nostalgic. This throwback is natural and not overly done, unlike some of Shane's dialogue. Known for his quick quips and flowing conversation, Black feels stuck between action-broisms and stinging wit. When this combination works, it feels like a fluid blend of kid-friendly sci-fi and eff bomb-fueled fist bumps. When it doesn't stick the landing, however, it comes off like the one 4th grader who knows "bitch" and says it way too often in gym class.
The cast is the real shine, here. Boyd proves himself as a solid, if replaceable action hero, but it's his newfound unit that gets all the good lines. Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera help bring some levity as former soldiers with more than a few psycho-social quirks, and Rhodes stands out as the bro to end all bros. Baxley and Coyle, played by Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key respectively, are a surprise delight in their display of an oddball male bond. Also,
FACT: Sterling K. Brown makes everything better.
Where the fun dries up is in the "science lady" character, Casey Bracket. Brought to the screen by Munn, Casey is kind of a letdown, with a complete lack of real charisma and only the occasional good line. Munn has to bear the weight of Black's lackluster female writing, and seems almost tired of underwritten characters by the end of this film. When her better protagonist roles have come from Aaron Sorkin, one can guess how fed up she's feeling.
Jacob Tremblay plays McKenna's son and plot instigator in the film, whose disability takes stake in the story's outcome. The focus on his gifts come off as surprisingly empowered, yet under-baked. It's one of the many times that feel like another look at the script could've elevated the fairly standard storyline. The themes are casual and not supported by their own creators. Then again, it's a bromance shoot-em-up. What should really be expected here?
The Predator is a sloppy, chummy action movie that is pretty damn funny. If you were hoping for better female representation or an evolution in artistry from Shane Black, this movie is going to be pretty disappointing. If you just want a fun, dumb time at the movies, then The Predator is a rowdy, rewatchable crowdpleaser that has as much of a good time as you will.
I give this film a soft 7 out of 10.