You would think since I grew up in the 80s, Predator should have been one of those franchises that I was all over back in the day. However, shockingly enough, I never sat down and watched any of the Predator films from start to finish. That is until the recent 4K UHD release where I had a marathon and watched 5 hours of glorious carnage. Problem is the trailers ruined what few surprises The Predator had to offer.
After my recent Predator triple feature, while not for me, I get the appeal. The simple, straight forward approach was refreshing, old school, film making at its finest. Ok finest is a stretch. Revisiting this series made me remember the days when movies were movies, action films didn’t rely on CGI and films were made to be one offs, not Universe building monsters. I didn’t need to understand the motivations of the Predator. He was a killing machine hunting down the best soldiers around in the most gruesome ways possible. That was all I needed to know.
Now, all these years later we have the 4th installment of this franchise and it showcases the symptoms of everything wrong with modern filmmaking, especially modern action films. Today’s block buster wannabes can’t just tell a simple straight forward story anymore.
Writer/director Shane Black, is the brains behind one of my all-time favorite movies – The Long Kiss Goodnight and the Lethal Weapon series. Since those signature films he’s become incapable of sticking the landing. He thinks he’s cleverer than he actually is. Just look at how utterly awful the 3rd act in Iron Man 3 is. He stuffs The Predator with more exposition and setup than is necessary and fails to pay off on anything. He seems more concerned with swerving the audience, or sowing the seeds of a future sequel than telling a proper story in THIS movie.
Like the previous Predator films, the movie spends the first ½ of the film attempting to set up the victims – I mean “characters.” Since I just watched the previous 3 films, I found myself not being invested because I knew everyone is going to die eventually except for our designated Predator killer. In this case Quinn McKenna (played by Boyd Holbrook). Who is Boyd Holbrook? I have no idea, all I know is this guy was in the Netflix show Narcos.
He does an adequate job as the lead, but there was never a point in the film where I bought him as this bad ass military sniper. At one point his wife played by Yvonne Strahovski, who we don’t see enough of, loved her in NBC’s Chuck, gives a speech about how he may be a lousy husband, but is an awesome military hero. The film’s tonal problem is summed up in this one scene. On the one hand it’s supposed to be inspirational but then Quinn’s squad of misfits make a joke of it. I didn’t know what I was supposed to think.
Back to the commercials ruining the movie. I wish I didn’t know that this film included a Super Predator or the dumb Predator dogs. Then again, I’m glad that I did know because I was prepared for the absurdity of the 2nd and 3rd act. I’m not even going to waste my time mentioning his weird, team of psycho ex-military people. Olivia Munn did a serviceable job as a super biologist, but there was a ridiculous moment where for no real reason she takes off all of her clothes, while there was no nudity, I asked myself “Why?” And I hated Sterling K. Brown’s performance as Traeger the bad guy whose motivations or even who he works for is never really explained. Is he a government official or head of corporate security I was never really sure. I assume he was a CIA spook. I can’t stand watching people chew gum, it’s one of my biggest personal peeves so watching a character pop gum in his mouth every second he’s on camera isn’t going to endear me.
I wish this movie stuck with the simplistic Predator formula and didn’t try to shove the beginnings of a mythology into the franchise, the movie was bad enough on its own terms, but I felt a bit cheated by the ending and the terrible 3rd act.
Final Grade D