THE PREDA­TOR

Time to let Ol’ Shane out of the bag…

Total Film - - Big Screen -

one of the (bet­ter) run­ning gags in The Preda­tor in­volves char­ac­ters ques­tion­ing the term ‘preda­tor’. Whoa… we’ve been get­ting it wrong all these years? (31, to be pre­cise, since the Arnie-armed orig­i­nal). But if there’s a self-mock­ing chord be­ing struck here, it’s not con­tin­ued. Re­turn­ing to the fran­chise as di­rec­tor/co-writer rather than sup­port­ing loud­mouth, Shane Black isn’t out to of­fer a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent take on the space-beast saga. This is a se­quel/ homage with bright green blood in its veins, cen­tred on a group of guys – and one lady – tak­ing on an alien hunter.

Sure, there are wrin­kles. Prin­ci­pally the pres­ence of a child pro­tag­o­nist in the form of Ja­cob Trem­blay’s (Room) Rory, whose in­ad­ver­tent ac­qui­si­tion of CER­TIFI­CATE 15 DI­REC­TOR shane Black STAR­RING Boyd Hol­brook, tre­vante rhodes, Ja­cob trem­blay, Kee­gan-michael Key, olivia munn SCREEN­PLAY shane Black, Fred dekker DIS­TRIB­U­TOR 20th cen­tury Fox RUN­NING TIME 107 mins

ex­tra-ter­res­trial tech puts him in the line of fire. Ditto his dad Quinn (Boyd Hol­brook), an ex-army ranger who forms a rag-tag unit with other vets – and Olivia Munn’s sci­en­tist Casey – when preda­tors ar­rive in town.

If the guys are all shooty may­hem and salty ban­ter (leav­ing Munn to mostly play straight woman), Trem­blay brings a fresh sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity with­out de­volv­ing into schmaltz (mind your lan­guage, kid!). The pos­i­tive por­trayal of his autism adds a sen­si­tive note (well, more sen­si­tive than the blokes’ end­less ‘mother’ jokes, any­way), even if it ends up be­ing as much plot de­vice as any­thing else.

What Black’s movie re­ally has go­ing for it is pace. It starts with a crash, fol­lowed swiftly by a bang and vast swathes of wal­lop. The re­lent­less­ness doesn’t al­low you any time to catch a yawn, but it’s also not too con­ducive to ten­sion. Fran­tic edit­ing gets the pulse rac­ing less of­ten than the eye­balls sprain­ing, es­pe­cially dur­ing the dark, for­est-set fi­nale. The kill count’s close to in­fin­ity, yet only a few of them are truly mem­o­rable; shout-out to a sticky riff on one mon­ster’s use of in­vis­i­bil­ity.

But enough about those com­monor-gar­den preda­tors; what about the ti­tle char­ac­ter, the big guy? Well, he’s, um, big (11 as op­posed to seven feet). And that, dis­ap­point­ingly, is about it; save for a tweak that partly mutes his mys­tique, he’s more about up­scal­ing than up­grad­ing.

Still, the lion-like preda­tor pooches add some va­ri­ety, while the hu­man cast proves mostly (ahem) game (though pity poor Al­fie Allen, whose main con­tri­bu­tion is a card trick). In­evitable nods to the ’87 movie (and ’91 se­quel) are both kept to a min­i­mum and han­dled with crowd-pleas­ing care, and there’s a slyly dis­mis­sive at­ti­tude to the AVP movies. Yes, this is su­pe­rior to those, and 2010’s di­rect three­quel. But while Black’s film car­ries a ‘The’, the orig­i­nal Preda­tor re­mains far and away the def­i­nite ar­ti­cle. Matthew Ley­land

THE VER­DICT

Black’s typ­i­cally tangy show­case for one f-word brings to mind oth­ers: fast, fu­ri­ous, fun… and some­what for­get­table.

Sug­ges­tive com­ments about a preda­tor’s fish­nets are a big no-no…

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