Lethal With Weapons

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The gal­axy’s great­est killer is back, now with added def­i­nite ar­ti­cle.

re­leased OUT NOW! 15 | 107 min­utes Di­rec­tor shane Black Cast Boyd Hol­brook, Olivia Munn, Ja­cob Trem­blay, ster­ling K Brown, Tre­vante rhodes, Kee­gan Michael-Key

Much like their oc­ca­sional quarry the Xenomorphs, the Preda­tors haven’t head­lined a clas­sic in over three decades. Even so, there’s some­thing so iconic about their “gal­axy’s ul­ti­mate hunter” MO that it’s easy to see why 20th Cen­tury Fox per­sists in bring­ing them back to Earth to put an­other bunch of un­for­tu­nate hu­mans in their crosshairs.

Un­like the much-de­rided Alien V Preda­tor films and the eas­ily for­got­ten Preda­tors, how­ever, new se­quel The Preda­tor makes the trip across space worth­while. Re­turn­ing to the fran­chise for the first time since he be­came a Preda­tor’s first on-screen kill in the 1987 orig­i­nal, writer/di­rec­tor Shane Black harks back to the era when he scripted Lethal Weapon to craft an unashamedly big, dumb ac­tion movie. It may bring lit­tle new to the party, but it does pack bags of pop­corn fun into its tight, sub-two-hour run­time.

Cru­cially, The Preda­tor isn’t just a naive re­tread that ex­pects us to buy that ev­ery­one in it is see­ing a game-hunt­ing alien for the first time. The US gov­ern­ment ac­tu­ally knows all about them and wants their tech, while the Preda­tors have a sim­i­lar ob­ses­sion with hu­mans that jus­ti­fies their nu­mer­ous trips to Earth. But, clearly re­al­is­ing that Preda­tors work bet­ter as Michael My­ersstyle bo­gey­men than fully-rounded pro­tag­o­nists, Black wisely keeps the alien mythol­ogy to the bare min­i­mum – any more in­for­ma­tion would erode their mys­tique as much as the AvP films did.

Be­sides, Black seems much less in­ter­ested in the ETs than his hu­man char­ac­ters – and what be­ing on an ex­trater­res­trial kill list does to them. As in the orig­i­nal movie, there’s a car­toon­ish qual­ity to the en­sem­ble, all of whom can be in­stantly pi­geon­holed as the leader, the sci­en­tist, the clown, the sen­si­tive one… you know the drill. But in this con­text it’s an ef­fi­cient short­hand that does the leg­work nec­es­sary to make sure you do give a damn when they have their in­evitable meet­ings with the sharp end of a Preda­tor weapon. And they’re not just cookie-cut­ter ac­tion stars, ei­ther, as Black’s script makes he­roes of those tra­di­tion­ally marginalised by Hol­ly­wood (a unit of sol­diers from a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal; a kid with Asperger’s) – an ad­mirable mis­sion state­ment for the movie.

Though the ac­tion se­quences gen­er­ally hit the tar­get, the real fire­works come in a script that siz­zles with snark. Rev­el­ling in its in­her­ent ridicu­lous­ness, The Preda­tor is gen­uinely funny, with even the call­backs to ear­lier movies com­ing off – most no­tably a hi­lar­i­ous riff on “get to da choppa!” and an on­go­ing de­bate about the id­iocy of call­ing what is, essen­tially, a hunter, a Preda­tor.

So while The Preda­tor doesn’t linger long in the mem­ory, it is a hell of a ride – though it’s prob­a­bly worth cross­ing your fin­gers that the very silly coda doesn’t in­spire the plot of any sub­se­quent in­stal­ments. Richard Ed­wards

Packs bags of pop­corn fun into its run­time

The movie’s Lawrence A Gor­don Mid­dle School is named af­ter one of the pro­duc­ers on the orig­i­nal Preda­tor.

He’s also a real hit at chil­dren’s birth­day par­ties.

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