Director: Shane Black
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jake Busey, Jacob Tremblay
Rating: 2.5/ 5 stars
Predator (1987), which starred two future governors of the United States, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, is one of the best action films in the history of Hollywood. The sequels that followed, Predator 2 (1990) and Predators (2010), did not live up to the expectations though. Eight years since, the fourth (sixth, if you include the two Alien vs. Predator films) instalment of the franchise proves again that some films should just be left alone. Much like the second and third films, not much thought seems to have been put into revolutionising the idea. Look at its simplistic title for example.
While the first and third films were set in the jungles and the second one in the bustling streets of Los Angeles, this one takes the story into the suburbs. The alien species is back, and this time, along with futuristic technology, they’ve got a gene pool that consists of all the universe’s other lives. When one of the predators crash lands in, you guessed it, America, US Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) is the only survivor to witness what’s nothing short of a massacre. And as expected, that brings the party (read: spacecraft) to the city, and what we see for the rest of the film is a cat-and-mouse game with enough gore to satisfy a horror film fan.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it,” Arnold quips in the first part, and there is no shortage of bloodshed in The Predator as well. The very first shot of the predator has the creature losing its invisibility thanks to blood dripping from a bisected man. Having said that, the best moments are when we see the creatures in action. This is because we’re otherwise stuck with Holbrook’s rather forgettable character. These scenes are made somewhat tolerable thanks to supporting characters like Nebraska Williams (Trevante Rhodes), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key) and a few other ex-soldiers who provide some much-needed comic relief. There are also some nifty touches like having Jake Busey play Sean Keyes, the son of Peter Keyes, a character played by his real-life father Gary Busey in Predator 2.
Another interesting character is Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who has Asperger’s syndrome as well as preternatural ability. In the beginning though, he comes off as one of those too-wise-for-their-age kids. Later, he transforms into a really likeable character. Much like Anna Gonsalves in the first Predator film, there’s a woman here too. And much like in many other monster films, she’s a woman of science, a biologist (Olivia Munn), and similar to Dr Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park or Dr Helen Benson from The Day the Earth Stood Still, she’s brought in as a researcher who does everything but that.
Director Shane Black (who interestingly played a supporting character in the original film) tries to strike a chord with the audience by milking the nostalgia around the 1987 classic and updating it. But the film fails on both counts. We neither get clever scenes that serve as a throwback to the first film nor do we get any genuinely scary moments. The climax too, placed in a forest, fails to give you a sense of satisfaction. What is meant to be a homage to the original film, ends predictably with sub-standard visuals thanks to the blotchy CGI. The Predator, it seems, is really only meant for completist fans of the franchise.